BRISTOL BOROUGH >> The Bristol Borough Council on Nov. 9 vote 6 to 2 to approve a lease agreement with Verizon to locate a 128 foot tall cellular tower at the borough’s sports fields on Jefferson Avenue.
Under the agreement, Verizon will pay the borough $28,000 annually plus a five percent increase each year to lease a small corner of the property located along the railroad tracks just beyond the right field line where it will erect a cell tower and a small mechanical building.
“It’s going to go up somewhere in that area whether we like it or not. They have a dead spot and they need to fill that gap,” said Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe. “The question is do we want $28,000 a year and put it in right field or do we want someone else to get the $28,000 and we still get the tower?”
Councilman Tony Devine voted against the agreement voicing potential health concerns of locating a tower close to where children are playing. “I’m not sure of the potential health risks of kids in that area. I’m not comfortable voting for this.”
Council Vice President Betty Rodriguez also voted against the lease, but did not elaborate.
A majority of council said they were satisfied by information provided by Verizon regarding health and safety. They also welcomed the revenue the lease would bring to the borough noting that if the borough would have denied the lease the tower would probably be built on an adjacent property and the borough would lose the lease dollars.
“I get what Tony is saying. I’m not saying that’s an unreasonable position,” said Councilman Greg Pezza. “From what science was presented to us, I feel comfortable. And getting that money would not be a bad idea.”
Girard added that Verizon needs the tower because they’re dropping calls. “We’re going to get a tower in that location whether it’s on our property or on private property,” he said. “In my opinion, if you’re going to get a cell tower, why not take it for the taxpayers.”
Verizon will next need to secure approvals from the zoning hearing board, the planning commission and borough council before it is allowed to erect the tower.
“Maybe the zoning board can ask Verizon to bring in an expect to discuss health and safety. The zoning board can still turn them down if they don’t like what they hear,” noted DiGuiseppi.
Chestnut and Elm
In other action, council voted 7 to 1 to approve a cooperation agreement with the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County to redevelop the Chestnut Street and Elm Street neighborhoods. Voting against the motion was Tony Devine.
Once the agreement is signed, the borough will transfer more than 50 properties it has has acquired over the years to the RDA. The RDA will then negotiate demolition contracts, potentially pursue acquisition of seven remaining properties, solicit developers interested in redeveloping the land and to seek out grants for infrastructure.
“But under this agreement, even though they will own the property, they do not make any decisions without council approving it,” said Borough Solicitor William Salerno.
For years, the borough has been buying up properties on Chestnut and Elm, a neighborhood that had seen a higher crime rate and where homes had fallen into disrepair, with hopes of one day redeveloping the neighborhoods and returning them to the tax rolls.
Trash collection contract
In other action, council voted to exercise a two year option that will extend its trash collection contract with JP Mascaro & Sons from January 2022 through 2023. It also agreed to a three year payment proposal with the hauler.
Mascaro, which is struggling to meet the demand of increased household waste due to the pandemic and more people working from home, had asked the borough to exercise the two year option and to consider up fronting its payments.
The change would give the hauler an influx of cash to hire more workers to handle the increase in demand. And for the borough, it would mean a stable trash rate through 2023.
So beginning in January, which would have been the fifth year of its contract, the rate will increase 10 percent from $106 to $115. And it will remain at $115 for 2022 and 2023 instead of increasing to $120 in 2022 and 2023 under the original extension.
“It’s the same amount of money, but we will be paying less in the last two years,” said borough solicitor Bill Salerno.
“We are exercising our two year option for the simple reason it’s going to be a lot cheaper,” said Council President Ralph DiGuiseppi, noting that the cost of new trash hauling contracts are through the roof. “If we don’t exercise this option I can guarantee you that our cost will be dramatically higher.”
Councilman Greg Pezza agreed. “If you’re the borough or a business, when you see an opportunity to lock in a contract at a rate less than if you went out to bid you lock it in,” he said.
“This makes financial sense,” he continued. “But we also need to hold their feet to the fire. We need to tell them that if we sign on the dotted line the expectation is that they use that money to get the extra staffing, you use that money not miss our trash on trash day, which I know is easier said than done. But at some point in time we have to make sure that the increase in our cost is going to come with more regular and standard trash pickup without the interruption.”
Voting against the motion were Dave Girard and Tony Devine.
In other action, council approved the hiring of Lee Matthews as the borough’s newest part-time police officer.