School officials reassess cell tower near school after community input

June 2, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

After community input, Issaquah School District officials are rethinking plans to put a cell phone tower near Beaver Lake Middle School.District officials told school board members May 27 they are looking to rescind the contract they offered to AT&T or find a new location for the cell phone tower.

District officials offered the contract as a way to earn additional revenue, said Jacob Kuper, the district’s chief finance and operations officer. 

District officials are working to finish closing a $5.4 million budget gap, as a result of funding at the state level. 

AT&T would pay district officials $1,000 down for the cell phone tower and between $1,300 and $1,500 a month for locating it on school property, Kuper said. 

Two other schools in the district, Sunset Elementary and Skyline High, have towers located on or next to their properties. The cell phone company pays the district for use of its land at Skyline, while the cell phone company with the tower next to Sunset doesn’t have to pay, since it is in the right of way zone, said Steve Crawford, director of capital projects for the district.

Near Beaver Lake. there are already three other cell phone towers within a two-mile radius of the school, Kuper said. 

“While it is small, it is a stable revenue stream for the general fund,” he said. “We are always looking for new revenue streams that are stable.” 

Notification to property owners living within 200 feet to 500 feet of the proposed tower went out and a public meeting was held in February, Kuper said. 

One person attended that meeting, so district officials believed the community’s attitude toward cell phone towers had changed in recent years. 

However, some neighbors said they didn’t know about the meeting, so they asked Kuper and Crawford to conduct another with property owners in the area. 

Nearly 25 residents attended that meeting, most adamantly opposing the placement of a tower on school grounds and near their homes, citing concerns for safety and of property values. 

Several of those neighbors addressed school board members at a May 27 meeting. 

“I would like to request the school district enhance its notification process,” said Klahanie resident Ramesh Mandyam. “I am also concerned about the placement of a cell phone tower on school property, as research and science have left it open-ended, noting that long-term studies would have to be conducted on their safety. Due to the lack of data, I would ask the district err on the side of caution by not placing a tower on school property.”

“I am a parent of a Skyline student and I wasn’t notified when that tower was placed, because I didn’t live in the 200 to 500 feet of it, but I would have voiced concern,” said Patricia Vargas, another resident who would live near the proposed tower. “I do have concerns, because I don’t know if it is safe or not.” 

“It appears we misread the barometer of the community,” Kuper said.

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this article at www.issaquahpress.com.

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