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Elk Meadow parents press councilors over cell tower

It was a packed audience at Wednesday night’s Bend City Council meeting as dozens of parents and others in a group fighting construction of a cell tower next to Elk Meadow Elementary School again pleaded with the city to step in and prevent its completion.

The group called ” Stop Cell Towers at Schools ” put together a petition to show support strengthen their position.

This group has come together because of health concerns regarding a cellphone tower being put in so close to a grade school, without parents made aware or having a say. It was approved two years ago, and nearby residents were notified, as state land-use laws require.

As of Wednesday, the petition had more than 1,300 signatures. Coincidentally, that’s about how many feet the petitioners want the cell tower moved from the school, a safe distance in many foes’ view.

Back in 2017 when the tower was approved, the city informed residents within 750 feet of the tower.

The tower was later approved, meaning the land use decision was final quite some time ago/.

Elizabeth Hanley-Szabo and Paul Bacon said they want to be able to advocate for their children.

” We feel that the science is not complete on how safe wireless radiation is, especially towards kids, ” Bacon said. ” And as matter of fact, there is quite a lot of evidence that it is not safe. ”

Hanley-Szabo added, ” Putting this tower next to them when we don’t know the long-term effects of radiation, it’s just incredibly irresponsible. It should not be done, and we need to take a stand against that. ”

Both Hanley-Szabo and Bacon said they will continue to work to advocate for the safety and health of students and people living around the school.

They said they want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and see a change in the way people are notified about cell towers being built.

City Councilor Chris Piper said he held a meeting with a group of parents to listen to concerns and get them in touch with Rep. Greg Walden’s office. But right now, he said, between federal regulations and the land-use approval two years ago, the council’s options are limited.

” It’s simply an area that the federal government controls, ” Piper said. ” We can’t preempt it at this time. Maybe down the road, there is an opportunity. So the more people that raise their voice and advocate for this, maybe there is an opportunity this might turn. ”

Piper said he wants to do what he can to make sure all voices are heard on this issue.

Despite Mayor Sally Russell’s statement that councilors cannot change the outcome, more than a dozen tower foes took their three minutes to speak during the visitors’ section of the agenda, prodding and pleading with the city to step in. Some said they were looking at home-schooling and that neighbors were even moving, to protect their children’s not-fully-formed brains.

When Hanley-Szabo spoke first and presented the petition to councilors, she asked all those in the room opposed to the cell tower to stand. Few remained seated.

Looking across the room at City Manager Eric King, Hanley-Szabo said, “We need you, Mr. King, to call Verizon on our behalf and ask them to move (the tower). Others have moved. We need you to have our backs on this. ”

When she drew applause and cheers, Russell reminded the audience not to do that in the council chambers.

There was no such outburst for the rest of the speakers, who mainly focused on the unknown health impacts and “cancer clusters” that have arisen elsewhere, but also brought up issues such as children exposed to pornography inadvertently in a search on a school iPad, or the dangers of smart meters, or a surveillance state the next-generation 5G will bring about, or the family and societal disconnect of today’s technology, as everyone stares down at their cellphones.

Verizon provided NewsChannel 21 on Wednesday this statement regarding the cell tower:

“Verizon has spoken with community members on multiple occasions and met with several, in person, last Friday, Sept. 27. During that meeting, we listened to their concerns and were provided a copy of the petition.

“We are open to hosting a town hall meeting and will arrange for an independent health expert to attend to address any concerns, ” the company stated.

But Verizon added, “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. ”

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