The Bethlehem Central School District Board of Education made it clear by way of a vote on Wednesday, Oct. 21, that the district will not seek to build a cell tower near an elementary school but that a site near the Operations and Maintenance building is still a possibility.
The board voted unanimously to limit the scope of the investigation. A proposal by Independent Towers LLC had named land near Hamagrael and Clarksville elementary schools as possible locations, sparking a controversy and inciting a number of community members to speak out in protest.
The concerns of residents who formed a loose-knit coalition against the proposal were three-fold: the possibility of health impacts, the effect on nearby home values and the general infringement of commercialization on district property.
District officials on Wednesday reiterated that it was never the position of the district that a tower should be sited near an elementary school, but that the possibility was raised in Independent's initial proposal.
I was frankly surprised that the site at Hamagrael and the site at Clarksville were included in that opening RFP [request for proposal], said Superintendent Michael Tebbano.
The district will continue to investigate placing a tower at the Operations and Maintenance building, which is some distance from the High School.
Independent representative Daniel Schweigard said that the district could expect to immediately recognize $20,000 to $24,000 in revenues from a tower, which would increase if more carriers located at the tower. Once the tower is established and the carriers in place it will generate funds in the long term, he said.
"Once a carrier is on the facility they're basically committed for a period of about 25 years," said Schweigard.
The tower owner would also pay local and school taxes based on the assessed value of that property, he continued.