AT&T Inc. deal garners public criticism

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This map shows the general location in which AT&T Inc. will run the new telecommunication facilities per the license granted by the Lansing City Council.

By Patrick Lyons
Lansing Star staff writer

The Lansing City Council sparked public criticism Monday over the terms of a license allowing AT&T Inc. to place telecommunication facilities in Adado Riverfront Park

The council voted unanimously to grant AT&T a license to proceed with the project.

The project which allows AT&T Inc. to place underground facilities within a 10-foot-wide area under Adado Riverfront Park, south of and parallel to Saginaw Street, will pay the city $1000 per year for 20 years, for a total amount of $20,000. The money will be deposited into the Lansing Parks Department Land Acquisition and Development Fund.

Community members at the meeting feel that this represents a poor business deal on the part of the city.

“The city figures that that’s good business,” Darnell Oldham Sr., of 3815 Berwick Drive, said. “They want to raise our taxes, but they can give multibillion dollar corporations all kinds of breaks.”

One such break was the altering of the deal from an easement to a license, which lessened the cities profit from the deal.

“Initially it started out at an easement,” City Councilor Brian Jeffries said. “That is where you are giving up a property interest; a license is a lot less [control] then that, so the cost of a license is a lot less than the cost of an easement.”

Residents feel that the city is letting AT&T off too easy.

“We’ll create what we call a license agreement and then you charge $1000, what’s wrong with you people?” John Pollard, of 1718 Blair St., said. “Here’s your chance to make some money, $1000 is nothing to AT&T.”

The City Attorney Brig Smith said that the negotiated deal was necessary and is fair to the city.

“$20,000 over 20 years seemed like a nice round figure and agreeable to all the parties, which was important because we had to get the matter done in a pinch and we managed to do that,” Smith said.

Jeffries said that the deal was altered from an easement to a license to streamline and accelerate the approval process. He said that because the facility would be located on city property any easement or long-term lease would have required a vote by the people of Lansing, which he called an onerous process.

The rush to finalize this deal is due to the fact that the Michigan Department of Transportation plans to reconstruct the Saginaw Street Bridge in December. The bridge currently carries AT&T Inc.’s conduits and services to residents of Northeast Lansing.

The total scope of the project will be 18 plastic ducts in a bore that begins west of Grand Avenue, crosses under Adado Riverfront Park and the Grand River, and ends at the railroad property east of the park.

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