Legal tangle prompts tower eviction

The Baldwin Township Board decided at its July 6 meeting to proceed with an eviction of SBA Communications from the cell tower located at the Town Hall, 30239 128th St. Chairman Jay Swanson said it had been two years dealing with the legal issues and was time for the township to be finished with legal fees and a company that doesn’t respond.
After the meeting he said the tower has been there for at least 10 years, if not 15, and was erected by a different company. Baldwin owns the land and the cell provider pays the township rent. Swanson said the contract definitely has a clause that if the company changes hands, it would notify the township.
He said the township learned from another source that the provider had changed ownership, so it started making inquiries but received no replies. Swanson said Baldwin has stopped taking SBA’s rent checks and eventually the company quit sending them.
Paperwork from the meetings say the provider made offers at different times of $350 per month and $615 per month but proposed no recourse for an estimated $10,000 in legal fees. The township is asking for two years’ rent plus the legal fees.
Swanson said each “side” has changed legal teams since it started, which adds to the confusion, but Baldwin still has no choice but to evict SBA and try to replace it with a productive tenant. Swanson said he’s heard rumors that Verizon would want to be on the tower.
SBA had asked to co-locate an antenna on the tower for Verizon, but the township said no because of the pending legal action. Swanson said the money from the tower rent has historically gone to the fire department, so it is missing money while the issue drags on.
Swanson said the township thinks SBA is already in breach of contract for a lack of notification when the company changed hands. The eviction process might take several months or longer if contested. Swanson said he doesn’t know if people’s coverage would be affected if and when there is a transition of providers, but he planned to ask the town’s attorneys about it.