LIVINGSTON — There's a new evergreen tree on the Livingston High School campus. Compared with surrounding trees, this redwood won't drop any needles or pine cones, though.
It's actually a cell tower.
There are many ways these modern communications structures can be disguised to blend in with the surrounding area. The 90-foot example "planted" on a lightly traveled area near the northwest corner of the Livingston High School football stadium parking lot will produce a crop of cash for the school, thanks to Tustin-based Vista Towers.
Livingston High Principal Ralph Calderon said the cell tower near Fifth Street was finished last month. The project started about a year ago, but there was a delay waiting for cabling components to arrive.
"If you don't look closely, it looks like a redwood," Calderon said. "There are evergreens around it."
Michael Belluomini, the Merced Union High School District's director of facilities planning, said the license for the cell tower is for five years and will automatically renew unless the owner declines to renew. There was no identified opposition to erecting the cell tower.
The license rental fee is $700 per month for one user and $500 monthly for additional users.
Resembling an artificial Christmas tree on steroids, the Livingston cell tower will generate $8,400 a year at a minimum, Belluomini said. There is no cost to the district.
Typically steel poles in many shapes and sizes, cell towers have been disguised as flagpoles, cactus, palm trees and even a church cross. Livingston's cell tower is in a walled yard with a 11-foot building, 14 circuit panel boxes and other accessory structures.
Vista Towers owns cell towers in the Las Vegas, San Diego, Bishop, Palm Springs, Mammoth Lakes, Santa Clara and Temecula areas. Some of the towers are hosts to two to four cell phone companies. Towers typically cost $200,000 to $400,000 to construct, a company representative said.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.