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City wants Verizon to pay more rent at park
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City officials want Verizon Wireless cell phone company to pay more for renting a small section of Smyrna Park for cell phone tower equipment but the two parties appear to have a bad connection.

Verizon has been leasing a light tower at the ball field for a tower and space in the ground for equipment. The company asked the city for more space for the installation of a new emergency generator.

The request prompted the city to look at increasing the rent. The city notes that Verizon currently pays $922.41 per month based on a 25-year agreement with 3 percent increases annually built in. But the agreement is renewed every five years.

It was discovered that Verizon is only leasing 480 square feet but later installed a chain link fence to protect the building which expanded the area being used to a total of 1,351 square feet. Knowing that Verizon is using more space than the agreement spells out, the city wants to increase rent. Looking at what neighboring cities charge cell phone companies, the city asked Verizon to pay $1,923 per month. The compank balked, saying they would go no higher than $1,350 per month. If the city didn't accept that offer, the company would abandon plans for the new generator and continue to pay $922.41 per month.

The response prompted a curt reply for council members at the April 13 City Council meeting.

"I say we play hardball with them," said Councilman Bret Durossette.

Mayor Anthony Cannella suggested that the city should make Verizon go back and pay for back rent it didn't pay on the fenced-in area or make the company take out the fence.

"They've been taking advantage of us," said Cannella, who said the Verizon space cuts off a big area where kids otherwise could be playing catch.

Vice Mayor Chris Vierra and Councilman Ken Lane recused themselves from the agenda item as having conflicts of interest.