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Valrico's Cimino Elementary considers cell tower deal

VALRICO — A lucrative cell phone tower could soon pop up behind Cimino Elementary School on Culbreath Road.

Principal Deborah Talley has been in talks with Collier Enterprises, a company that brokers deals between schools and cell phone carriers, said Linda Cobbe, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County School District.

After sending out notices, Talley had a meeting earlier this month with 20 people to discuss the proposal.

Talley will make the decision on whether to build the tower. Cobbe and parent Pearl Chiarenza said there has been little opposition to the proposal, however some parents are circulating a petition against it.

Chiarenza, who is also a PTA member, said she's found no reasons to be concerned about a tower going up near the school. Most of the negative research she has come across has focused on cell phones, not towers.

"Speaking as a parent, I am fully confident that Mrs. Talley would never do anything that would put our children at risk," Chiarenza said. "If they can put (a tower) right down the road from us, why not have our children benefit from these types of programs during budget cuts?"

Cimino parent Robert Cerjan attended the meeting after seeing a notice that his child brought home from school. The idea of a cell tower behind Cimino doesn't sit well with him or others he says are just starting to hear about it.

Cerjan said he has big concerns about Collier, whose sole purpose is to generate revenue and not look out for the safety of children.

"And then leaving that decision up to a principal? To me, that's unfathomable," he said.

The school district gets 50 percent of revenues from cell towers built on school property, Cobbe explained. The school and district then split that amount, with 80 percent going to the school.

Schools in the county receive $6,000 to $30,000 from such revenues, Cobbe said.

Parents at Coleman Middle School in Tampa recently beat back plans for a cell tower after more than 300 showed at a meeting and demanded that the tower not be built. A plan for a cell tower at Pride Elementary School in New Tampa has been met with opposition.

In both cases, parents cited potential harm from radio frequency emissions.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or 661-2454.

Valrico's Cimino Elementary considers cell tower deal 01/29/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 29, 2009 3:30am]
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