Background: The Cary Community Plan underscores the Town’s commitment to plan for and provide exemplary and timely emergency services. Living out this commitment includes ensuring Town staff entrusted with public safety tasks have access to the facilities and tools they need to accomplish those tasks well. Cary works cooperatively and proactively to find regional solutions to improve public safety in our communities. These regional solutions include Cary’s collaboration with Wake County to allow Cary to co-locate on the County's RTP radio tower, and to allow Wake County to utilize the Town’s 800 MHz radio infrastructure.
Cary is currently a partner in the County’s radio system upgrade project which includes a proposal to install a radio tower at the Western Wake Regional Water Reclamation Facility (WWWRF). One of the County’s goals in the upgrade project was to eliminate gaps in the public safety radio coverage area, including a prominent gap in the southwest corner of the County (Figure 1). WWWRF was identified as a preferred location for a new radio tower to eliminate this gap. Cary and Apex Utilities Departments, Town of Cary IT Department, and Wake County staff worked to determine if a suitable site at the plant could meet the following criteria:
§ Not interfere with daily plant operations
§ Not needed by Cary and Apex to increase WWWRF treatment capacity in the future
§ Be within the existing developed area of the site, and not require removal of trees or impingement on buffer areas
§ Be consistent with the facility’s operating and environmental permits (e.g., NPDES, 401/404) which limit noise, light, and wetland impacts
§ Not located adjacent to residential neighbors
Discussion: The tower site evaluation, conducted jointly by Town and County staff, determined that an area at the southern end of the site is suitable for the proposed tower (Figure 2). After the WWWRF candidate site was identified, Wake County also applied for and received a special use permit for the tower from Apex since the WWWRF is in the Town limits of Apex. As part of the permit application process, Wake County reached out to 20 adjacent property owners about the project with a mailing giving the time and location of a neighborhood meeting; contact information for Apex, Wake County and consultant staff contacts who would be available to answer their questions about the project; and drawings and maps describing the proposed radio tower. The neighborhood meeting was held January 24, 2018. A representative of the New Hill Community Association outside the notification area, who was informed about the project by an adjacent property owner, attended the neighborhood meeting to get additional information. Apex received no objections to the proposed project. Nearby property owners were notified again prior to Apex Town Council’s May 1st action on the County’s application for special use permit.
In addition, Town staff reviewed the proposed Tower project with representatives of the US Army Corps of Engineers, who confirmed that the project, as proposed, is consistent with the requirements of the Record of Decision issued by the Corps to permit WWWRF construction. Cary and Apex (joint owners of the facility) negotiated a lease agreement with Wake County to construct and operate the proposed tower on the site.
Because the tower will provide significant benefits to the Town and regional public safety, including tangible improvements to Wake County public safety communications coverage, available space for co-location of the Town’s communication equipment, and will not interfere with plant operations or compliance with its permits, the negotiated lease agreement is submitted for Town Council consideration. The Cary/Apex/Wake County Radio Communication Facility Ground Lease Agreement (Lease Agreement, attached) is designed to define the terms and conditions under which the radio tower and its appurtenances will be constructed and operated by Wake County. Cary, Apex, and Wake County staff developed lease terms mutually-agreeable to the parties, including:
§ Rights and limitations of access
§ Specific structures to be allowed on the leased site
§ Tower operation and maintenance shall not interfere with WRF operation
§ Tower will have a separate electrical feed
§ Cary and Apex will be permitted to co-locate their communication equipment on the County’s tower
§ Liability and insurance requirements
§ Periodic structural inspections required
§ Processes if tower is seriously damaged and for when the lease period ends
Fiscal Impact: All costs associated with construction, maintenance, and operation of the radio tower will be Wake County’s responsibility. The lease is authorized by NC General Statute § 160A-274, and no rent will be paid by Wake County for the lease. Similarly, no rent will be paid by Cary or Apex for co-location of Town communication equipment on the tower.
Apex Town Council anticipates considering the Lease Agreement on July 17, 2018, and the Wake County Board of Commissioners will consider it on July 23, 2018. The Agreement would become effective upon execution by all three parties. It has an initial 30-year term, to 2048, with additional 10-year terms through 2068.