The Crawford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 3-1 to pay for archaeological testing of a potential site near Charter Oak that could be used for a tower for the county’s new land mobile radio (LMR) system that is under development.
Supervisors Cecil Blum, Eric Skoog and Dave Muhlbauer voted in favor of the testing and Supervisor Jeri Vogt voted against.
Chairman Kyle Schultz abstained, as he is the current owner of the site in question.
The discussion took more than one hour; the following is a heavily condensed account.
Duane Zenk, representing the LMR advisory board, explained that archaeological testing is required for the site.
The testing would fulfill the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act, State Historic Preservation Act and Tribal Historic Preservation Office.
Zenk said the initial review, to be conducted by Associated Engineering, is estimated to cost $4,900.
An individual from the state archaeological survey office will conduct a survey that will cost several thousands of dollars.
All of the Native American tribes that have an interest in the area will also be part of the review. Zenk said about 18 tribes could be involved at a cost of up to $1,000 each.
Muhlbauer asked whether soil testing, approved by the supervisors on October 1, had been completed.
Zenk said it had not.
Vogt asked for clarification of who would own a tower built on the site.
Zenk said Crawford County would own the tower.
Vogt then asked if the land in question would eventually belong to the Charter Oak Firefighters Association (COFA).
“I don’t want to speak for Kyle, but I believe that was his thinking,” Zenk said.
“So we don’t know who this land is eventually going to belong to,” Vogt said.
“I don’t know if he plans to sell it or lease it or what,” Zenk said.
“It would definitely not be in the taxpayers’ interest to buy the land - first,” Zenk said.
Zenk told of a county in eastern Iowa that had two sites rejected at a cost of $30,000 each plus the acquisition.
“So if the land doesn’t belong to us, what’s it going to cost us to put our tower on somebody else’s land?” Vogt asked.
“That’s to be determined,” Blum said. “That’s negotiation between the landowner and the other entities.”
“The landowner and this board,” Schultz said.
“So we could pay up to about $30,000 or $25,000 or whatever dollars?” Vogt asked.
Zenk said the total could be $30,000.
“There’s this land and we’re putting our tower on it and we’re doing all this sampling and stuff to keep this moving forward, but in the end of it we don’t know what this is eventually going to cost us,” Vogt said.
“We have an idea,” Zenk said. “You know, naturally you have an idea of what things are going to cost.”
“Has there ever been any talk by whoever’s going to own this - what are we going to pay, like a monthly rental?” Vogt asked. “Are we going to pay an annual rental? How much is this going to cost us to have that tower on somebody else’s land? That’s what I want to know. Do we have any idea at all?”
Zenk said he could not address that.
Schultz said that he had originally said it wasn’t going to cost anything.
“Oh, we’re going to have free rent to put our tower on somebody else’s land?” Vogt said. “Is that what we’re thinking?”
“It’s negotiable,” Schultz said.
“But we don’t know that – what it’s going to be,” Vogt said.
She asked whether other entities would be able to locate equipment on the Charter Oak tower.
“There is always that possibility,” Zenk said.
“So the county would be getting rental off of whatever is put on there?” Vogt asked.
“It could, yes, potentially,” Zenk said.
Vogt asked if rentals from the tower would go to the county.
Zenk suggested a renter would have to negotiate with the tower owner and the landowner, but nothing was “cut and dried.”
Blum said he thought the proper process would be to get the geological and archaeological testing done before negotiating for the land.
He said he would advocate for leasing the land rather than buying it.
The Review reporter pointed out that the agreement under discussion does not involve the county buying or leasing the land from Schultz.
Schultz indicated at the October 1 supervisors meeting that his lease proposal, to COFA – not the county - was $1 for 99 years.
“The county will have to lease or buy, ultimately,” Zenk said at this Tuesday’s meeting.
“Nothing’s been chiseled in stone, yet,” Schultz said.
“It’s kind of a chicken and an egg,” Muhlbauer said. “What came first?”
Muhlbauer said the county shouldn’t buy a piece of ground that testing later shows can’t be used.
Vogt pointed out that the county would be possibly committing another $30,000 when the initial soil testing hasn’t been completed.
A long discussion ensued concerning what an archaeological survey might find.
When the discussion returned to the subject of leasing costs, Muhlbauer said he knew of a Verizon tower on Highway 141 on which it would cost $3,000 per month to rent space.
Vogt asked if the county could end up spending $3,000 a month in Charter Oak.
Zenk said another entity co-locating on the Charter Oak tower would have to negotiate with the county and with the landowner.
Vogt asked if Schultz would be the landowner.
“Nothing is established,” Schultz said.
“But is that what we’re kind of talking about?” Vogt asked. “You’re going to be the landowner, there is going to be a lessee that’s somebody else and… the agreement’s going to be between us and the lessee?”
Vogt said she wouldn’t bore a well or build a house on a property before she knew want the rent would be.
Peggy Staley, a Charter Oak city council member, asked who would be the supervisors’ lead negotiator for the county for the lease.
Schultz said it would not be him.
He said Blum is the vice chair.
Blum said he will likely be the chair next year if negotiations take that long.
“It will be somebody from this table,” Schultz said.
After further discussion of the costs of the study, the supervisors voted 3-1 to authorize the archaeological review.
Read more in the Tuesday Denison Bulletin