The Bethlehem Central School District Board of Education approved moving forward with plans for a cell tower near the district's Operations and Maintenance building in a 4-3 vote at its Wednesday, Nov. 18, meeting.
The district will now sign a letter of consent with Independent Towers LLC, who responded to the district's request for proposals earlier this year. Independent will move their plans ahead to the Town of Bethlehem Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board, both of which must hold public hearings and give approvals before the tower can be built.
The decision effectively takes the building of the tower out of the district's hands and places it before the town.
The vote came after a lengthy and heated public hearing on the matter, during which board President James Dering had to gavel audience members back to order on several occasions.
Daniel Schweigard of Independent Towers kicked the meeting off by giving a presentation on his company's proposal to the school district. The company had pitched three tower locations originallythe Operations and Maintenance building and sites near Hamagrael and Clarksville elementary schoolsbut the Board of Education in October voted to rule out the elementary school locations.
Schweigard was joined by Lou Cornacchia, president of New Rochelle-based Scinetx Corporation, which conducts studies on cell tower radiation levels, among other things.
Cornacchia placed his seal of approval on the cell tower's health implications, saying that even with four providers placing antennas there, in the "worst case scenario" the level of radiation, or RF energy, put out by the tower would only rise to 1.38 percent of the FCC maximum allowable level.
"There is no threat here if the facility was installed and operated with four carriers," he said.
Cornacchia said that while his company has conducted similar tests for other tower companies, this is the first time he's worked with Independent.