By Lee Hughes
Staff Reporter 

Medical Lake council delays renewal of utility leases


February 28, 2019

All council members were present at the regular bi-weekly Medical Lake City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19. The primary focus of the evening was on the first reading of renewals for Avista and T-Mobile franchise agreements that allow the utilities to operate on city property.

Set to expire next month, Avista’s electrical franchise agreement allows the utility provider to continue to locate its electrical transmission utilities within city rights of way.

The agreement would renew for what turned out to be a contradictory number of years.

Councilman Don Kennedy pointed out discrepancies in the term of Avista’s draft franchise agreement that was before the council — in one section it read 20 years, in another 25.

“It should say the same thing in the agreement,” Kennedy pointed out.

City Administrator Doug Ross noted that the intent was 20 years.

“I apologize for not having caught that,” City Attorney Cynthia McMullen said.

This was the first reading and, pending correction to the franchise time frame, the council voted unanimously to forward the new Avista franchise for a second and final reading in the future.

The Avista agreement is non-exclusive; competitive utilities can request franchise agreements as well, Ross said.

The next discussion centered on an amendment — essentially a renewal — to an existing 20-year-old T-Mobile master lease agreement, and a second “site agreement” that outlines charges T-Mobile will pay to install and maintain their equipment placed on and near the city water reservoir at the top of Olson Hill.

Kennedy again had questions related to agreement time frames. The master agreement, he noted, was for 15 years while the site agreement was for 20.

“What would you like to see?” asked Ross.

“They should be the same,” Kennedy replied.

Further discussion focused on how much the lease amount to be charged to T-Mobile would increase annually. In the case of the new site lease agreement, rent would increase 3 percent annually versus a fixed amount per the previous agreement.

Kennedy felt a higher inflator would be preferable. Ross suggested that the council keep in mind that doing so would increase their rent by “a thousand dollars per month.”

McMullen said that similar contracts have language stating leases be “comparable,” and that further research might be advisable. She suggested the council table further discussion till the next meeting in order to research other contracts, sort out the various details and make any necessary revisions.

“Most of these contracts, when there are multiple parties, they want basically the same conditions all the way across the different contracts,” McMullen said.

Several telecom companies have leases with the city to place their facilities on city property, including AT&T, Verizon, and others, Ross told the council.

A motion to table the T-Mobile lease and site agreements until the next council was passed unanimously.

Lee Hughes can be reached at


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