South Jacksonville Trustees to Vote on Easements With AT&T At Upcoming Committee of the Whole

By Benjamin Cox on October 6, 2023 at 3:25pm

The South Jacksonville Board of Trustees still have actions to take when it comes to a new cellphone tower.

Village Attorney Rob Cross notified the board Thursday night at their monthly meeting that AT&T is seeking two utility easements at the north edge of the village’s property on Sequoia Drive to connect electricity and fiber optic lines into a proposed 195-foot tall cell phone tower. Cross said one easement would grant electricity, that would cause a utility cable to pass under the northeast edge of the village’s parking lot on Sequoia Drive, the other would connect fiber optic cables that would pass under a sliver of property at the northwest edge.

Village President Dick Samples repeated his concerns from September that the village should not grant any easements for AT&T to come onto village-owned property, but he says the decision ultimately lies in the hands of the trustees.

Trustees Steve Retzer and J.W. Coleman pushed back in the meeting saying they didn’t want to hinder the project any further saying the village needs better cell phone service as soon as possible.

Samples believes in the “give them an inch and they will take a mile” theory when it comes to granting a utility giant like AT&T easements to publicly-owned property, especially since they have other options to do what they need to do to connect utilities: “They could go elsewhere. I’m talking about running a period of cable within a footage of 200 feet and hook on to it. They are suggesting they are going to hold that over our head that they are not going to put the tower in because we won’t give them the easements. Folks, I don’t vote. My job is to keep these people (these people being the trustees) informed of what all has happened and what is going on, and I believe that I have been doing that.”

The vote and further discussion on the easements for the tower have been placed as a special action item for the upcoming committee of the whole session on October 19th. Attorney Rob Cross told the trustees he would extend an invitation to AT&T’s engineering representatives to explain their position at the upcoming meeting.