The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors, at the behest of AT&T, will vote at its March meeting on the tabled motion to place a cell tower at the Rappahannock High School. In a surprise move, according to the Rappahannock News, “an alternate site for the proposed 199-foot monopole at the high school had been submitted earlier in the day, another 220 feet from the school . . . .”
To me, and I speak only for myself, this smacks of the same lack of “due diligence” and lack of public information that seems to permeate the whole process. Why was the tower placed closer to the school in the first place? Who made that decision? After what research? With what input? What was the school board vote? And what was the vote to move the tower farther from the school? What concerns were being responded to? The move seems to be an admission of a serious problem.
We don’t have a lot of media out here in our unique mountain home. There is just our one weekly newspaper, and for obvious reasons, there is no investigative reporter. So we have to count on absolute transparency in public affairs.
Most of us are not clear about who approached who about the whole cell tower proposal. There seemed to be a well intentioned collusion to “git ‘er done.” All of a sudden it seems to be a done deal, and if one has reservations about it, one is suddenly labeled as kind of “idle rich come-here environmental extremist.” Do what?! This is not the way Rappahannock has traditionally done business. The issue itself has caused more angry dissension and division than any I can recall. What’s up with that?
Our county depends very much on the goodwill and fellowship of volunteers and the generosity of community-minded citizens. This affair is fraying that spirit.
I have a very serious favor to ask of our community, especially our county officials and supervisors. Please Google “schools and cell towers” and explore there for an hour or so. You might see some nonsense, but you will also find a lot of serious information. You will find that cell phone companies, knowing that school budgets are being cut during this recession, are using this public relations gambit around the country. And it is meeting with stiff resistance for good reasons.
I think we all know that the science on electromagnetic radiation is an evolving discipline. Cell towers and cell phones are a recent phenomenon, so only a few decades of study have taken place. And the proliferation of cell towers has been extraordinary, from a few thousand to more than a quarter million in two decades. And the growth is exponential. So with more time and more cell sites, scientists naturally will have a much larger and more meaningful sample.
We need to ask ourselves some questions. Are these concerns merely the rantings of over-reacting environmental wackos? Or are they the prudent caution of thoughtful parents and school boards? Remember, many of us are of the generation that was told that tobacco had no harmful effects and was certainly not cancer causing. And the federal government went along with it. And we grew up in houses, schools, and offices which were festered with asbestos. How did that work out?
The Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the largest in the country, has already moved to keep cell radiation off of their school properties. The same thing is happening in other American cities and towns.
If our school district is in the kind of dire need that it needs to risk the health and safety of our kids, then as individuals and groups we should pony up to meet the cost of that lease agreement. I volunteer right here to contribute what I can on a monthly basis.
Hey y’all, I know that a whole lot of folks here are really looking forward to better cell phone service. And I’m the leader of the pack when it comes to faster Internet service. But we seem to be going off half-cocked and hurriedly. Better service will come if we are patient, and there will be better coverage. We shouldn’t sell the farm just yet. We are the hole in the doughnut right now, and believe it or not, that hole is a seller’s market.
And while you are on Google, check out the “lightRadiocube” from Bell Labs. It is expected to make cell towers obsolete in the very near future, perhaps as soon as next year. Similar technology is already in use in major cities with large buildings. The “lightRadiocube” technology would provide almost universal coverage for a place like Rappahannock, rather than the limited coverage (45 percent) now offered by AT&T. These “cubes,” with less radiation than a tower, could be placed on chimneys, flagpoles, barn roofs, or old TV antennas. Then Rappahannock could have almost complete coverage without the plug-ugly monopoles and that which comes with them, health concerns, lowered property values, and less coverage.
Federal law says we have to allow for cell companies to present plans for service. It doesn’t say we have to jump through their hoops at whatever the cost. Let’s start over again, and get this thing done as a unified community.
I know that County Administrator John McCarthy and the supervisors have worked hard and spent a lot of time on this. We should thank them for that. But we should also expect them to respond in a very public way to the concerns raised, and to new information which could make the idea of gigantic cell towers obsolete before 2013. Let’s not paint ourselves into a corner created by AT&T.