The Bethlehem Central School District's idea of erecting a cell tower on district property to bolster the budget had a group of area residents dialing in their concerns at a recent Board of Education meeting.
Hoisting signs reading Cell towers harm our teachers and children and "Trees not towers" and "Don't nuke our children," approximately 15 people demonstrated outside the BC district offices prior to school board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 7. A number attended the meeting afterward, and spoke during a public comment period at the end of the agenda.
Opponents said they had several concerns about the placement of a cell tower, especially near schools: the possibility of health effects, the aesthetic impact and how it might affect the property value of nearby homes.
"It's one thing to use a cell phone, that's your choice. To have your child assigned to a school with a cell tower, that's not your choice," said Myer Kutz, a member of the recently formed No School Towers Coalition.
Demonstrators said they think the district is trying to push the plans forward without public input, but school officials argued that there would be ample opportunity for public comment before any plans are finalized.
"This is not a done deal and the idea that we haven't been transparent with this is really in the eye of the beholder," said Superintendent Michael Tebbano.
The district began examining ways of opening new revenue streams during last year's budget process, Tebbano said, and placing a cell tower on district property was one option that was deemed worthy of investigation. In May of this year, the school board selected Independent Towers LLC as a consultant after issuing a request for proposals.
Independent's proposal highlights three possible tower locations: Clarksville Elementary, Hamagrael Elementary and land near the district's Operations and Maintenance department near the High School.