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Parents still protesting SW Bend cell tower placement

About two dozen parents and a few students braved the freezing temperatures outside Elk Meadow Elementary Wednesday morning, holding up signs and continuing their efforts to stop construction of a cellphone tower next to the school that they believe will harm their kids.

The protesters said they’re being denied a safe learning environment for their children, and want Verizon to hear their voices. NewsChannel 21 has reported on their concerns about the tower’s possible health impacts on their children.

A fifth-grader at Elk Meadow said she’s been talking with her friends at school about it, and getting mixed reactions.

“A lot of people argue with me and tell me that it’s perfectly safe, and that if it wasn’t safe then people wouldn’t be putting it up here,” student Fiona Clark said. “But I disagree. People want more money, and the cell tower is in the perfect place to get more money.”

Elizabeth Hanley-Szabo, a leader of the effort, is the parent of two students at Elk Meadow. She said if the tower is not moved, she will consider transferring her children to a different school.

“Cell towers go up and cell towers can come down,” Hanley-Szabo said. “Our community does not want this cell tower here. It can be moved to a better location. These cell towers should not be going up next to any school, especially elementary schools.”

The protesters want their voices to be heard by Verizon and for the city to take more action against the construction of the tower, which was approved by the city close to two years ago.

Anne Aurand, a spokesperson for the city said there is not much the city can do, at this stage.

Under federal law, no state or local government can “prohibit or effectively prohibit” the offering of wireless services in any area where the carrier is licensed.

Regarding safety concerns, according to a radio frequency (RF) safety analysis prepared by Hatfield and Dawson Consulting Electrical Engineers in May 2017, submitted with Verizon’s initial application, the predicted RF exposure of the Verizon tower would equal less than 2 percent of the FCC’s maximum ground level public exposure limit at the project site, or any adjacent property.

Federal law prohibits a city from regulating facilities on the basis of RF emissions concerns if the facilities otherwise comply with FCC rules and standards.

Federal law also prohibits state and local governments from imposing more restrictive regulations on small cell wireless facilities than imposed on other similar types of infrastructure (such as wireline communications or cable facilities).

The protesters said they will continue fighting for a safe learning environment for their children. On Oct. 3, Verizon provided NewsChannel 21 this statement regarding the cell tower:

“We are open to hosting a town hall meeting and will arrange for an independent health expert to attend to address any concerns. At this time, we have received all of the necessary government approvals. The site is currently under construction. It will be ready to go on air before the end of the year.”

Read our most recent story on the cell tower.

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