Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough School Board postpones cell tower decision

TAMPA — They heard some tough arguments against the controversial policy of placing cellular towers at schools.

But members of the Hillsborough County School Board ducked a vote Tuesday to renew a contract on leasing tower space for a simple reason: they weren't sure what they were voting on.

Staff members initially couldn't find the most current version of the 2006 agreement with contractor Collier Enterprises, which has helped the district lease land to cell providers. And while the staff eventually tracked down the revisions, board members said they felt squeamish about voting on something they hadn't examined in detail.

"I want to see the contract we're voting on tonight, in its entirety," said April Griffin.

The board voted 6-1 to postpone discussion on the issue until the May 17 meeting, with Carol Kurdell casting the lone dissenting vote.

She said she would have voted to renew. Others weren't so sure.

New member Stacy White has helped rekindle the long-running debate in recent weeks, questioning the wisdom of delegating tower decisions to principals. Last year, schools earned $360,000 from the leases.

"We have delegated a lot of our powers," said Susan Valdes. "And at the end of the day, we are held responsible and accountable to the people who voted us in here to do what's right by kids."

Cynthia Shellabarger, whose children attend Mabry Elementary, was among eight residents who raised objections.

"They are not safe, and they are not legal," she said, pointing to a picture that she said showed an open, untended gate in front of a cell tower at another school, Pride Elementary. A child could have wandered in and been exposed to unsafe chemicals, equipment or radiation, she said.

"This should not be allowed to happen on our children's school grounds," Shellabarger added.

Board attorney Tom Gonzalez said the district is on firm legal footing in leasing the space for towers, with its chief facilities officer overseeing each deal.

But parent Carrie Grimail said opponents would continue fighting.

"How much money is this really worth?" she asked.

Tom Marshall can be reached at [email protected]

Hillsborough School Board postpones cell tower decision 05/03/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 11:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa man charged in hit-and-run crash that killed bicyclist on I-4 exit ramp in Tampa


    TAMPA — A 44-year-old Tampa was arrested and charged Wednesday in a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist earlier in the day.

    Christopher Jerimiah Cole, 44, of Tampa was driving this silver Mercedes on Wednesday when it struck a bicyclist on the exit ramp from eastbound Interstate 4 to southbound U.S. 301, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Cole kept driving, troopers said. The bicyclist, a 45-year-old Brandon man, died at the scene. His name was not immediately released because troopers were working to notify his family. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  2. Quarterbacks, head coach targeting Vernon Hargreaves; 'I'm not producing,' he says


    Eli Manning gathered his receivers together during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and informed them of the weakest link of the secondary he planned to target that afternoon.

    Quarterbacks this season have a 128.7 rating when targeting Vernon Hargreaves. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Rick Baker's radio ad said Rick Kriseman missed NAACP event---but he didn't.


    A radio ad narrated by St. Petersburg civil rights activist Sevell Brown and paid for by a political-action committee supporting Rick Baker asserts that Mayor Rick Kriseman "couldn't be bothered to show up" for a recent NAACP event.

    Rick Kriseman didn't skip recent NAACP event, but Rick Baker radio ad claims he did
  4. Demolition begins on wing of Channelside Bay Plaza, making way for Water Street Tampa (w/video)


    TAMPA — The original developers of Channelside Bay Plaza at first wanted the name of the complex to include the word "Garrison." That would have fit, because the center turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    A pedestrian bridge in the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza was demolished in Tampa on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. [Gabriella Angotti-Jones  | Times]
  5. Police: North Tampa woman fatally stabs live-in boyfriend


    TAMPA — A Tampa woman faces a charge of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her live-in boyfriend early Wednesday morning.