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Verizon, NLR City Council ironing out lease

Representatives of Verizon are planning to return to the North Little Rock City Council on April 28 to work out a lease agreement between the company and municipality where it can secure the right to use city utility poles to set up additional communication devices to enhance internet-related service within the community.

Principal Engineer John Johnston and Real Estate Specialist Chad Tarver, representing Verizon, were on hand to answer questions from aldermen during their last regular session of April 14.

The council members had a propose lease agreement before then which had been drafted by the offices of Mayor Joe Smith, the city’s legal department, and Verizon.

The April 14 proposal would have allowed Verizon to initially put up between 12-15 communication devices with the city earning $2,500 annually for each erected device. The city would get the final say-so where the devices would be erected, with the company being required to return to the municipality to seek permission.

Under the original proposal, the lease would have been in effect 25 years.

Alderman Maurice Taylor told Tarver and Johnston he wanted more questions answered.

“You know how many you need and where you need to put them. If you didn’t know, how would you know that you need 12-15?” Taylor said.

Tarver and Johnston said Verizon would start out with erecting 12-15 but would add them on an add-needed basis.

Johnston said the devices are necessary as demand for more advanced online and Smart phone services are increasing. The devices will enhance technology capabilities close to where the devices are set up.

Alderman Linda Robinson said she would like to include an escalation clause that the amounts of the lease would go up over the course of 25 years.

“Twenty-five years is a long time,” Robinson said.

Tarver and Johnson said the reason Verizon wants a 25-year lease is because of the large financial investment it will take to install the technology.

“A 25-year lease is standard in the telecommunications industry,” Johnston said.

Taylor asked the Verizon representatives where exactly does the company want to install the equipment.

“I worked in this industry and I know it,” Taylor said. “You know where you need it. Why don’t you tell us?”

Johnston and Tarver said the exact locations are not known at the present time.

Smith suggested holding the proposal lease until the next council meeting to give all parities more time to iron out issues such as the length of the lease, the amount of lease payment paid, the size of the equipment, if there are changes does Verizon need to come back, and the possible inclusion of an escalator clause.

Smith said it is important for North Little Rock to have the best technology-related equipment it can get.

He said of the approximate 100,000 calls made to NLR’s 911 system last year, 88 percent were made from cell phones.

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