MCC Sells Tower Lands for $6, Maybe $7 Million

Faced with competing sellers, including perhaps the Crystal Lake Park District and a landowner a mile west in Woodstock, the McHenry County College Board voted unanimously, with Scott Summers absent, to sell 3.67 acres to BMB Communications Management for a solid $6 million.

A 1,500 foot broadcast tower is planned for the property. That will require a special use permit from the City of Crystal Lake.

An additional $1 million could come MCC’s way if the enterprise is successful enough to snag five “subscribers” five years from today.

Although there was no space on the agenda for public comment, it was allowed anyway.

Nunda Township Trustee Kevin Sarnwick, who lives just south of Hillside on the Crystal Lake Blacktop, expressed opposition for perhaps safety and definitely aesthetic reasons.

Given that college officials have released nothing that would indicate any due diligence was performed on the deal, except by a risk manager, I asked,

“Why should anyone in the public think you know what you are doing?”

I pointed out that most governments without expertise in an area where they are making a decision hire a consultant with experience.

Even after the meeting, there is absolutely no indication that MCC talked to any independent expert in the broadcast tower business.

Student Trustee Tom Kedzie asked a really good question. He wanted to know why the five-year limit was in the contract for the receipt of the extra million dollars.

No one came up with a good answer.

Board President Watson Lowe said that he had recently received a call from “a former board member who is an attorney” suggesting that his law firm had broadcast tower expertise and would recommend leasing, rather than selling the land.

Voting on the contract tonight, “We won’t be able to hear him.”

Then, Lowe said, “Right now I am really on the fence.”

Lowe pointed out that BMB originally wanted to lease the land, but one member had been adamantly opposed to leasing. BMB Communications Management Tom Zanck revealed that “over the last 6-9 months Mr. (John) Maguire has been trying to make it (buying, rather than leasing) work for his company.”

Just as with the baseball stadium proposal, a story which McHenry County Blog reported on first, the college kept details of the BMB tower proposal, first advanced and reported upon by McHenry County Blog over a year ago, secret.

And, except for the contract, any thought process used to reach a decision to sell has been kept secret.

It is clear that the major inducement is the money.

And the incentive to act immediately was loss of that money.

“They (BMB) have already signed a back-up contract,” board attorney Sandy Kerrick told the board. “I also dare say the prices of the neighbors are much less,” she added.

“We may get zero unless we get an affirmative vote on this contract, yes or no,” she continued. “We’ve had the contract since December.”

Yet the public had its first chance to see it on February 16th.

“We’re not admitting we know anything about towers,” Trustee Carol Larson said. I, for one, would like to go through with this contract.”

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And since the Crystal Lake City Council elections are coming up and the baseball stadium attracted more attention than any other issue in the last two years, let me remind you who killed the stadium with their votes:
Councilmen Ralph Dawson, Brett Hopkins and Jeff Thorsen threw the three strikes with their “No” votes on the proposal to re-zone McHenry County College for a minor league baseball stadium.

Dawson, on the left, and Thorsen, on the right, are up for re-election.

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Retiring board member Frances Glosson, who lives in Johnsburg, pointed out that she was in favor of selling the property “will allow us to build more (facilities) and serve all of McHenry County.”

She seemed to be talking about spending the $6 million elsewhere in McHenry County, perhaps an area where the height of the 1,500 foot tower would not be an eyesore.

Donna Kurtz made her decision strictly based on the “educational needs for our county. The other governmental bodies will have to make (decisions based on other factors.)”

“So, you’re going to support it?” Larson asked.

“I thought you could assume it,” Kurtz replied to one of the trustees who was a leader in the effort to censure her and Scott Summers for changing their positions on the minor league baseball stadium.

Senior MCC Trustee Barbara Walters pushed hard for approval. She pointed out this was only the second opportunity “like this,” the first being the baseball stadium.

“There’s always an exercise in futility of how much more we could (have gotten),” she explained, seemingly aiming her comments at Student Trustee Kedzie’s inquiry.

“We as trustees have a great opportunity,” she continued, pointing to potentially using it for nursing school and other facilities, a swimming pool and “for students.”

“What happens to the young students who come behind you 5-7 years from now?” she asked Kedzie. “The recovery will not be completed by then.

“I would ask that you add your voice vote as well.”

Kedzie stood his ground a bit, wondering “why we didn’t go forward” on securing the final $1 million, regardless when the fifth user of the broadcast tower came on line, but ended up voting “Yes” with everyone else.

And Walters seemed more than a little disturbed at the last minute intervention by the unidentified former board member-attorney.

“Had it gone to their firm, they would certainly have handled it differently,” attorney Walters said, suggesting that perhaps the firm might have ended up with a share of the lease income.

“We have competition in our immediate area,” Walters continued. “There’s a very good possibility this could go one mile west in Woodstock.”

And, later, “The (Crystal Lake) Park (District) has new property (Viking Dodge, which has 18 vacant acres out back) the tower could potentially go on.

CPA Mary Miller, who was attending over the phone during this busy income tax season then chimed in.

“I am for selling the land just because of the dollars.

“It will actually bring jobs to the county,” she added. “I think it’s a win-win.”

“I like the idea,” Board President Lowe said. He pointed out that the Capital Development Board (state government) would leverage $6 million to $24 million in new buildings, also citing nursing and its labs.

“They’re not cheap.

“I am troubled by the way this meeting has come about. I don’t know why we had to do this tonight. I don’t know why the regular board meeting (March 26th, wouldn’t be soon enough).

“We were told (the buyer) wanted a delay (at our last meeting).” He pointed out that a vote on the land sale was postponed at BMB’s request.

“This meeting was obviously called in haste,” Lowe, who called the meeting pretty obviously at the request of others, said.

“At the same time, I have to respect other people’s opinions,” referring to the former attorney-board member who suggested the college would fair better under a lease arrangement.

“They came at the last minute. That’s the way things happen sometimes.”

“Mr. Maguire requested a lease,” board attorney Kerrick basically lectured. “You did not want to be responsible (for the liability of owning the tower and potential of having to disassemble it). We also discussed (buying) additional land surrounding it (for a guyed wire) tower.

“Just bear in mind how we got to where we are.”

Kerrick later explained that Maguire’s company had an income tax advantage from purchasing from the college.

“He’ll be able to deduct the contributions (for paying more than market value for the land)…he writes it off and used the other money to build the tower.”

She mentioned the figure $400,000 as the “real value.” I presume she meant the value of the 3.4 acres.

“We know of other suitors out there,” Walters interjected. “The only thing that may happen is that other contracts may be signed.”

BMB is paying $2,500 for the ability to tell the FAA he owns the land over the next six months.

Here are the details of the BMB presentation three weeks ago.

There still is no representation of what this tower will look like with its constantly flashing white and red strobe lights.

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Drawings of the towers are seen on top, the one to the left bending under a 40 mile per hour wind and the other in calm weather. Kevin Sarnwick is seen expressing his opposition to the tower in the top photo.

Student Trustee Tom Kedzie is next.

The FM radio coverage area is seen below him.

Trustee Carol Larson is beneath the map.

The Crystal Lake City Councilmen who killed the McHenry County College baseball stadium are identified within their section.

Below is Trustee Frances Glosson and down to the left a bit is Donna Kurtz as she looking right after she voted in favor of selling the land.

Trustee Barbara Walters is below Kurtz.

Viking Dodge, which the Crystal Lake Park District is planning to buy if all the due diligence works out is next.

MCC Board President George Lowe is seen below.

Finally, board attorney Sandra Kerrick is shown giving the board advice.

The 1,500 foot broadcast tower will be built to the north of these Commonwealth high power electric lines. And since it was a beautiful sunset tonight, here’s a view of Crystal Lake that will not be despoiled by the proposed 1,500 foot broadcast tower.

Any fuzzy photos are the result of the McHenry County College Board’s refusal to allow any flash photography.

It took three times as long to write this story as it did for the college board to sell the land.

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