Oakland officials say the town of Sidney owes the town more than $3,000 in payments for using a radio tower leased by Oakland, and they are looking for a way to collect.

The Oakland town manager said in June that town officials gave Sidney a Sept. 1 deadline, but they haven’t received a check or communication from Sidney.

The towns entered into a contract two years ago to use a new communications tower in Oakland. The tower was built to enable fire and police responders in each community to talk to each other via radio. Under the contract, Oakland leased the tower from its owner, William Mushero, for five years at a cost of $4,800 per year. Oakland officials say they had a deal that required Sidney to pay $1,200 per year to Oakland for its use of the tower.

Sidney first responders, however, complained they were not getting worthwhile service from the tower, which is on High Street in Oakland, and started using a different service. Sidney officials want out of the contract with Oakland, which still has three years to run.

Oakland Town Manager Peter Nielsen said Sidney is $3,420 behind on the tower payments.

“The boards met a couple of times, and they didn’t resolve the matter,” said Nielsen. “I had sent a letter to Sidney in June to come current with their payment by Sept. 1 and that has passed.”

At the Wednesday meeting, Nielsen said the council will be discussing how to proceed after not making progress in resolving the problem.

Nielsen said the city is still billing Sidney for its portion because otherwise Oakland would be fully responsible for the entire payment to Mushero when they only intended to pay part.

Officials in Oakland complain they have to cover Sidney’s bills.

“Oakland still has the agreement with the tower owner, so we have to pay the extra to keep our arrangements intact,” he said.

Sidney previously tried to buy its way out of the contract for $1,500, but Oakland returned the check.

The service provided by the tower was changed when the FCC switched emergency responders to a different frequency.

After switching to the new frequency, the first responders reported they no longer had adequate reception. Sidney then paid $5,000 to use a different transmission system that doesn’t rely on the Oakland tower.

Sidney Chairman John Whitcomb did not return requests for comment on the tower. Whitcomb said previously that because the level of service was not adequate to allow emergency responders to communicate, the contract is null and void, allowing Sidney to opt out without making any more payments.

Neither town has gotten a legal opinion on the dispute, because both towns typically rely on the Maine Municipal Association for their legal advice, and the organization stays out of disputes between member communities.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]

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