Friday, November 24, 2017
Education

Pasco School Board approves cell tower at Seven Oaks Elementary

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LAND O'LAKES — About 50 concerned parents and children urged the Pasco County School Board on Tuesday not to allow a cellphone tower to rise at Seven Oaks Elementary School.

"You are voting today on the risk," parent Robb Sercu told the board. Is $24,000 a year worth the risk we know is out there?"

The opposition, including a petition with about 1,100 signatures, did not sway the board. Only chairwoman Alison Crumbley voted against it.

"Some of you talked about a potential for risk," board member Joanne Hurley told the audience. "We already have a potential for risk. This does not add to the potential that is already there."

Hurley referred to information provided by assistant superintendent Ray Gadd, who told the board that the county already has 184 cell towers in it, with coverage throughout the Seven Oaks subdivision of Wesley Chapel.

Gadd also said using a cellphone exposes people to higher radiofrequency levels than standing beneath a cell tower.

A recent study of the radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure at the Long Middle School cell tower showed radiation increased by less than one percent after it was turned on.

The rates were far below the maximum allowed by the FCC.

Board member Allen Altman praised community members for their professional approach. He said he respectfully disagreed with their opposition.

"If we are concerned about these things then we certainly would dispose our cellphones and never have them near our children or in our homes or in our cars," Altman said.

The issue first came to the board a month ago, and was expected to be a routine approval. The board already had authorized cell towers at five other schools in recent years, including at Long Middle and Sand Pine Elementary.

But about two dozen parents pressured the School Board to kill the Seven Oaks proposal. They argued that the health risks were largely unknown, and that they'd err on the side of protecting their children.

Board members agreed to postpone their decision for a month, suggesting that would provide time for the district and parents to collect more information to help with the decision.

Parents blitzed the superintendent and board with e-mails demanding they reject the land lease, which is projected to generate $1 million over 30 years for the district.

The District receives revenue from towers at Fivay High, Long Middle, Sunlake High and a future middle school site in the Meadow Pointe area. The board also has approved cell tower lease agreements for Gulf Trace and Sand Pine Elementary schools.

In other business, the board:

• Approved a conceptual agreement for a joint park-school project at the proposed Starkey Ranch residential development. The County Commission approved the deal earlier in the day.

• Approved the 2014-15 school year calendar with classes on Veterans Day, a week off for Thanksgiving. Board member Steve Luikart opposed the proposal, saying he supports a day off for Veterans Day.

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