Charlotte schools OK cell plan
Despite safety concerns, the Charlotte County School Board passed a leasing agreement to allow cell towers on school property during its meeting Tuesday night.
The measure passed 3-2, with board members Barbara Rendell and Alleen Miller dissenting.
“These towers would be giving people the 4G access they want in their neighborhoods,” said superintendent Doug Whittaker
The preliminary contract with Milestone Communications III, a Delaware-based company that operates wireless facilities and generates revenue for schools, parks and local government, gives the company the right to lease a portion of school properties for the purpose of constructing up to two cell towers per property.
Cellphone base stations may be free-standing towers or mounted on existing structures, such as trees, water tanks, or tall buildings, with base stations that can range in height from 50 to 200 feet.
Rendell and Miller both cited possible health risks associated with the radiation from frequency emissions as the reason they voted against the agenda item.
At a workshop earlier in the day, Rendell initiated
conversation about possible health hazards after she did some Internet research and found “shocking” results.
“This directly concerns student safety,” said Rendell. “I don’t care if it brings in $10,000 or $10 million, you can’t put a price tag on someone’s health.”
Board member Lee Swift said that a lot of the research that Rendell was referencing has been debunked. He read a statement during the meeting from the American Cancer Society’s website. According to the site, cellphones communicate with nearby cell towers mainly through radio frequency, or RF waves, a form of non-ionizing radiation similar to television or radio waves that won’t cause cancer unless someone is exposed at a very high level.
“The TV and radio industry went through the same thing,” Whittaker said. “It’s hypocritical for people to say ‘I don’t want a tower’ when their kids are walking around with a cellphone stuck to their ear.”
Board member Ian Vincent said many of the district-owned properties are away from schools or neighborhoods, and therefore would create no risk.
However lack of service also poses a problem. According to Milestone, one-third of Americans only use a wireless phone and 70 percent of all 911 calls are made from wireless phones, making a strong cell signal essential for public safety.
According to the board, each site where Milestone determined a need for a cell tower would have to go through a final approval by the board, and the district would have to hold a public hearing as well as collaborate with Charlotte County government before construction could commence.
Each site would earn an initial $25,000, plus an additional 40 percent of the gross revenues derived from the use.
The term of each agreement would be two years, with up to five-year extension option.