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A tower with a flag stuck on top
City unveils Metro PCS cell tower design for corp yard
This is how the 140-foot cell tower with 20-foot flag pole on top will look like on the southeast corner of South Main and Wetmore streets. - photo by Photo illustration courtesy City of Manteca

A 140-foot-tall oil-derrick style lattice tower complete with a 20-foot flag pole on top is being proposed for the municipal vehicle maintenance facility under construction at South Main Street and Wetmore Street.

The tower proposed by Metro PCS is being reviewed during tonight’s 7 o’clock meeting of the Manteca Planning Commission at the Civic Center council chambers, 1001 W. Center St.

The proposed cell tower projected to net the Manteca general fund $775,000 over the next 25 years is part of the controversy brewing over the empty 50-year-old municipal water tower directly across the street.

The water tower was used to pressurize the city water system. It has been without water after it failed to meet earthquake safety standards. It would cost $2.1 million to retrofit it so that it could again hold water. A structural engineering report stated the weight load demand on the tension rods and compression struts were estimated at being 300 percent of their existing capacity for the tower built in 1962.

The city intends to tear the water tower down as part of a future phase of the corporation yard upgrade project. Its current foot print is part of a future building.

Critics - led primarily by retired city planner Ben Cantu who intends to make a third run for the City Council in November - want the water tower saved and painted as a pumpkin. They contend the city could charge Metro PCS the $33,695 annual charge that the cell carrier is offering to pay to lease the proposed location for the new cell tower and simply allow the cell transmission equipment to go atop the existing tower.

They also consider the water tower a historical landmark that should be preserved.

Metro PCS, though, has its own specific protocol for how they install cell equipment and the existing water tower may not meet that specification.

It would cost money to prime and paint the water tower orange as well as protect the rest of the structure from rust. The city did not get an estimate but several general paint contractors have indicated it could easily cost upwards of $20,000 - if not significantly more - due to specialized equipment needed.

Retrofitting the tower and its 300,000 gallon tank would cost $2.1 million based on estimates the city received a few years ago. Manteca could build a new million gallon water tank for less than that.

The water tower does have safety communication equipment on it that would be relocated to the new cell tower if it is built.

The cell tower’s design may also disappoint some who are in favor of it being used as a flag pole.

Unlike the sleek look of a monopole with a flag wavering from it creating the illusion that the cell tower is a flag pole when in reality it’s not, the lattice tower leaves the clear impression the flag pole is an afterthought. Instead of blending seamlessly with the tower, it is simply placed on top.

An example of a monopole that is camouflaged in such a way as to look virtually seamless is the palm tree cell tower behind the Manteca Christian Worship Center on Button Avenue.

The tower and ground equipment that covers a 10-foot by 20-foot area at the base will be constructed by Metros PCS but the city will own the facility. The 20-foot flag pole on top will be lit. The flag, flag pole and lighting will be the responsibility of the City of Manteca.

At 160 feet overall with the flag pole included, it will be on of the tallest structures in Manteca.

The basic 140-foot tower will cost Metro PCS $50,000 to put in place. The city would piggyback on the tower with antennas used for fire dispatch, ham radio disaster assistance, city communications and even one used by the Manteca Unified School District. The deal calls for Metro PCS to be charged $2,000 a month to lease the tower. Each year there would be a 3 percent increase in the lease payment.

Metro PCS would have the lease payment waived for the first two years so they can recoup the cost of installing the tower.

Metros PCS would have a 25-year lease. The city, over the duration, would receive $800,000 versus $25,000 or $1,000 a year in maintenance and upkeep costs. That would mean the general fund would net $775,000 of $33,695 on average annually for the 23 years that payments are made after Metro PCS recoups the cost of installing the tower.