Friday, January 19, 2018
Education

Pasco School Board delays vote on campus cell tower

LAND O'LAKES — In the face of parent opposition, the Pasco School Board took no action Tuesday on a proposal to place a cellphone tower at Seven Oaks Elementary School in Wesley Chapel.

The board rescheduled its vote to Dec. 17, an evening meeting that could draw an even larger crowd than the two dozen who showed up Tuesday morning to voice concerns about possible harm from radiation emitted by the towers.

"I'm comfortable we'll have more people in December," said Robb Sercu, one of the parents who spoke against the tower.

He noted that more than 200 parents had joined a Facebook group opposing the tower, and more than 500 had signed a petition against it.

The district has been signing cell tower land leases at several schools, including nearby John Long Middle, as a revenue enhancer. Officials have projected each tower could generate $1 million over 30 years.

Sercu suggested that the district instead should have a fundraiser called "Keep Cell Towers Out of Our Schools."

"We could make it a community thing that everybody is behind instead of something that everyone is concerned about," he told the board.

The concern was evident among the parents who spoke out. They said the jury was still out on the harm their children might face with the radiation that comes from a cell tower, calling it a "gray area" with inconclusive research.

"Some cancers take 10, 15 or 20 years to develop. So we really do not know the long-term health effects," said parent Brian Wade.

That being the case, the parents said, the district should err on the side of children's safety.

"I do not send my kid to school so she can get harmed," said parent Nereida McGrath. "Please don't do this."

At superintendent Kurt Browning's recommendation, the board moved the lease deal to the Dec. 17 meeting. Vice chairman Steve Luikart said that change would give parents and the board more time to gather information about the health effects of cell towers.

Parents shouted from the audience that they wanted a "no" vote right away. Outside the meeting room, they said they were gratified to have another month.

"If its going to take longer for them to research … that's even better because they can be convinced by what we've provided," said parent Sanela Dzanan.

In other action, the School Board:

• Named member Alison Crumbley as chairwoman for the next year, along with Luikart as vice chairman.

• Rehired board attorney Dennis Alfonso and his firm for another year.

• Approved dual enrollment fees with Pasco-Hernando Community College, but vowed to fight for changes to the law that required the charges.

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