A tower’s ownership and price tag has become a matter of legal dispute in Bedford County, VA reports NewsAdvance.com. The breach of contract lawsuit was initiated by the Bedford County Broadband Authority which alleges that Blue Ridge Towers has indulged in contract shenanigans. Blue Ridge Towers (BRT) denies the allegations.
The relationship between the county and the telecom has been developing since 2018, when BRT was brought in to construct cell towers that would deliver broadband to an underserved area. The project involved a total of 11 towers, built at a cost of $3.5 million. Now that construction is complete, the ownership of a Big Island cell tower site has become a contentious issue.
In 2019, BRT negotiated with Georgia Pacific on the Authority’s behalf, eventually purchasing the site for $30,000. The deal was brokered between BRT and Georgia Pacific with Bedford County attorney, Patrick Skelley commenting at that time that the Authority had “no problem with BRT following through with that purchaser without my involvement.”
One agreement reached with Georgia Pacific indicates that the Authority owns the site, but another document filed two days earlier shows BRT as the site’s owner. The lawsuit contends the site was to belong to the Authority, which would reimburse BRT for the $30,000 purchase. The Authority does not want to pay the site ownership transfer bill of $302,324 that the BRT presented to them in 2020. The lawsuit further argues that rents from those using the tower were paid to BRT, not the Authority as they had agreed, according to NewsAdvance.com.
“BRT’s actions in acquiring the site and obtaining wireless carrier leases on the tower were transparent and made with the full knowledge and cooperation of County representatives,” responded attorney James Richards on BRT’s behalf. “The only issue that remained to be resolved was just and fair compensation to BRT for the land acquisition and an industry-standard commission on the leases.”
The Authority has asserted that BRT wants to keep the Big Island site, or “extort a massive profit from the Authority and the public.” Still, BRT attorney Richards “remains hopeful that the parties can resolve their dispute equitably and amicably.”