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Cell tower gets Pinellas Park okay

(ran West, Seminole editions)

Saying they had no choice, council members unanimously approved a cell phone tower to be erected on the edge of a Little League ballfield.

The tower will take the place of a light pole at the end of the first-base line, or home, dugout at the senior Little League field at Helen Howarth Park, 6401 94th Ave. N. The lights on the pole will be moved to the cell tower.

Nextel, the company that will own the tower, will put its equipment behind the dugout.

The location bothered Pinellas Park council member Patricia Bailey-Snook, who thought it was too close to the play area. Bailey-Snook worried about the equipment becoming an "attractive nuisance."

"We're asking for something to happen," Bailey-Snook said. "I think that's an endangerment of our youth."

Her concerns were echoed by Carol Harrop, a Helen Howarth neighbor, who questioned whether children could climb into the equipment and the level of radiation the 90-foot tower would emit.

Nextel's attorney said the equipment would be surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Any radiation, she said, would fall below the limits set by the federal government and should produce no problems.

That failed to salve everyone's concerns.

"I have concerns about barbed wire and kids," Mayor Bill Mischler said.

The attorney then said the enclosure would have no barbed wire.

Some council members told Harrop the federal government lets them regulate towers but prevents them from banning them.

The park, they said, was the best place for such a structure because it is away from area houses and will take the place of an 80-foot pole.

Former Mayor Cecil Bradbury agreed that placing the tower at Helen Howarth would be the best use of city land. But Bradbury wanted to make sure the tower and any antennae would be limited to 100 feet.

Council member Rick Butler said the equipment should be far enough away from the dugout so that city workers could easily repaint it when necessary.

Butler also had another idea: "You think we could get a Nextel field for a whole lot of dollars?"

He got no response.