PGUSD attempts damage control on botched AT&T cell tower lease.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
The Pacific Grove Unified School District screwed up on a lease allowing a cell phone tower at the P.G. Adult School. Now, PGUSD is asking AT&T to give it a break.
Last January, the school board agreed to let AT&T place the tower in the Adult School parking lot for one year, beginning in February 2011. (AT&T pays the district $1,000 per month for the space.) But the lease signed by a former PGUSD official is actually for two years, with an optional one-year extension solely at the discretion of AT&T.
PGUSD Assistant Superintendent Rick Miller, who was hired after the contract was signed, can’t explain the discrepancy. “Everyone seems to be surprised by it,” he says.
Now that it’s come to light, the district is asking AT&T to let it reconsider the contract, Miller says. The school board, however, didn’t address the issue at its Dec. 8 meeting.
“It just sounds so irresponsible of the trustees,” says Karuna Gomez, who lives near the Adult School and opposes the tower. “It’s not right for the school board to have blown it off.”
Gomez is worried about the potential health impacts of radio-frequency radiation on nearby residents, children attending Parents’ Place classes at the Adult School, and butterflies at the neighboring P.G. Monarch Grove Sanctuary. She says she’ll file a complaint with the district attorney if the tower stays up past February.
AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman says lease negotiations are confidential, but cell tower emissions are within Federal Communications Commission standards. “AT&T has cell sites on hundreds of elementary and high school, college and hospital campuses all across the country,” he says.
But not all school districts welcome them. An attempt in 2000 by the Los Angeles Unified School District board to ban cell towers near schools was blocked by the Telecommunication Act of 1996, a federal law pre-empting authorities from considering the health and environmental impacts of legal radio-frequency radiation. In 2009, LAUSD and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors called for a repeal of that provision.
PGUSD, meanwhile, has indicated it won’t allow any new towers on school grounds. Last May, after hearing from concerned residents, the school board rejected AT&T’s request to pursue a cell tower at PGUSD headquarters. According to the meeting minutes, “The board unanimously denied (now and forever more) for any cell towers to be installed on school district property.”