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County gets much more for cell phone tower at auction

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, at 10:24 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, at 10:46 p.m.

Pushing for more money for a cell tower at the old Greyhound Park netted just that for two Sedgwick County commissioners.

Commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau weren’t satisfied with an offer of $280,000 from Pixius Communications for a cell tower the county owned that it no longer needed.

Pixius is owned by developer Jay Maxwell.

The cell phone tower surely was worth more than that, Peterjohn and Ranzau thought.

Turns out, they were right: The county sold the tower at auction Monday for $610,000 to a Florida company.

Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said the county staff should have done more on the front end to ensure the county was getting the most money for the tower.

The staff learned a lesson, he said.

“You should consider whether or not the public interest is better served by bid or putting out to auction,” than by accepting a single offer, he said.

Peterjohn and Ranzau said they would like to see the county be more aggressive in the future about the sale of assets.

“We almost doubled our money net,” Ranzau said. “We did double the money gross.”

The county will pay half of the closing costs on the exchange, estimated to be $2,256. The auction company, McCurdy Auction, will get $55,000 from the sale.

“Things like this, we need to have an auction. I think that’s the best way to do it,” Ranzau said.

Peterjohn agreed.

“When we have a large-ticket item and it’s hard to tell what the real value of the item is, I’d like to follow what the public sector does, which is bid it out and get the largest number of bidders,” Peterjohn said. “As a general policy statement, I think the success of this auction suggests this would be the best way to get the maximum amount of dollars when the county has assets to sell.”

Pixius was one of the county’s tenants on the tower. The others were Verizon and AT&T. The county had the tower for its 911 system.

The tower no longer could meet the county’s needs, so it is moving its antenna to a Kansas Department of Transportation tower.

Pixius approached the county about buying the tower.

“There should have been more upfront review about why we should work with them,” Holt said.

The purchase is expected to close late next month.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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