DAVENPORT - Davenport residents upset over a cellphone tower placed in the middle of a city park say they believe city officials did not follow local laws and regulations in approving the structure.
The 180-foot tower is being built by AT&T in Emeis Park. Despite a city ordinance requiring new cell towers to go through a zoning board for a special-use permit, the city legal department deemed the permitting unnecessary, the Quad-City Times reported Saturday.
Two city aldermen, Ray Ambrose and Rick Dunn, said city officials made mistakes in allowing the tower to be built in the park. But City Administrator Craig Malin countered that every City Council member knew of the project and none objected to it. He also said the city's legal department signed off on it.
Emeis neighbor Denise Coiner says she has poured over about 800 pages of documents and is convinced city officials failed to follow the proper channels in approving the tower.
Coiner said city law requires applications for new cell towers to go through the Davenport Zoning Board of Adjustments and are required to have a special-use permit. The exception is when the city builds a new tower for the purpose of improving emergency communications.
Coiner said neighbors who contacted aldermen to voice opposition to the tower were told it was being built to boost emergency communications capabilities.
But a letter from AT&T officials to the city indicates the company is building the tower at the park because the location is "ideal to eliminate existing dead spots for residents."
Malin said those dead spots affect city crews, too, including police who have experienced dropped cell calls.
When opposition mounted, construction of the tower was briefly halted. But construction resumed this summer, and an AT&T attorney pointed to a contract provision that allows the company to fine the city $500 daily if the company is not granted round-the-clock access to the public park.
Coiner believes some city officials pushed approval of the tower because the city stands to profit from it. The agreement with AT&T has it paying the city $1,800 monthly lease payments starting in seven years. Over the 25-year lease, that comes to more than $500,000.
"This is a city park," Coiner said. "It's for people, not to make money."