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Should 150-foot cell tower be plain, a tree, a palm tree, cactus, or flag pole?
The cell tower behind the Manteca Christian Worship Center on Button Avenue along Highway 99 is camouflaged as a palm tree. - photo by HIME ROMERO

There may be a 150-foot pine tree in Manteca’s future.

Or the city could get its second 150-foot palm tree or even a 150-foot high cactus. Or – to dovetail in the Flags Over Manteca effort – it could be a 150-foot high flag pole.

Manteca municipal staff is now exploring such options for an envisioned cell tower going up at the site of the city’s new vehicle maintenance building after Councilman Vince Hernandez convinced his colleagues to not simply settle for the mundane, basic tower if they could avoid doing so. The vehicle maintenance building is being constructed on the southeast corner of South Main and Wetmore streets.

The last cell tower to go up in Manteca – a 150-foot tower near the northeast corner of Lathrop and Union roads - is a traditional pole with a triangle steel structure on top to attach antennas.

Prior to that, the city approved a cell tower behind the Manteca Christian Worship Center on Button Avenue that is camouflaged as a giant palm tree. The church, when they were building their new facility, was approached by a cell carrier. The church wanted to make sure the tower didn’t take away from the church and the neighborhood and opted for the palm tree design.

It visually fades into the background unless you specifically look at it.

It is the same concept involving a pine tree cell tower on Interstate 680 near Sunol that is not noticeable unless you know what you are specifically looking for in terms of what makes it a cell tower.

Hernandez said he’d like to see what the cost difference between a bland cell tower and one that is camouflaged.

He added the city should strive to do things “beyond the minimum standards.”

City Manager Karen McLaughlin said staff will further explore options. She noted it would add to the cost although it could be recouped from lease payments from Metro PCS.

The City Council did approve the deal to have Metros PCS build a tower that the city would then be able to move antennas on top of the existing water tower at the corporation yard complex.

The basic 150-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.

Any additional cost to the city for an upgraded cell tower could be covered by the lease payments.