Millstone considers cell tower at school

Board of Education gathers emission safety information


MILLSTONE — Although placing a cell tower on the middle school property off Baird Road could potentially bring in over $100,000 annually in revenue, Board of Education members want more information before they make a decision.

At the Nov. 24 meeting, representatives of two engineering companies answered questions and commented on a Verizon Wireless emissions compliance report compiled by a third company, Sitesafe, Inc. in Arlington, Va.

According to Sitesafe, Inc., Verizon Wireless’s emissions would fall under a 5 percent threshold.

Verizon Wireless consultant Dominic Villecco, of Vcomm in Cranbury, told the board there is a permissible emission exposure limit, which is 100 percent safe. That means the 5 percent threshold is 500 times below the safety level authorized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), he said. Villecco said the pole would be 120 feet high, as would any antennae.

According to Sitesafe Inc., the FCC rules define two tiers of permissible exposure guidelines. The first is for uncontrolled environments, which are defined as situations in which the general public may not be aware or may not be able to control their exposure to a transmission facility. The second tier is for controlled environments, which are defined as situations in which people are aware of their potential for exposure, such as industry personnel.

Sitesafe Inc.’s report addresses uncontrolled environments and states that the predicted maximum power density at two meters above ground level from the proposed Verizon Wireless operation is no more than 0.16 percent of the maximum level of exposure to any accessible area on the ground.

As many as five carriers could eventually go on the proposed tower, Villecco said. Board of Education President Tom Foley said each carrier could bring $25,000 annually in revenue.

Villecco gave board members copies of photos of other schools with cell towers on their property, including Toms River High School North in Toms River and Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes.

Board member Kevin McGovern asked when the FCC regulations were adopted. Villecco said they were adopted in 1998, based on studies done three years earlier. He said many studies have been done since that time, and that none have demonstrated that the standards should be changed.

McGovern said that Sitesafe Inc. did not address any intervening research, regardless of whether the standards were good or bad. Foley said he did not believe the board asked Sitesafe Inc. to do that.

“I don’t know whether it is the district’s responsibility to disprove whether FCC standards are correct,” he said, adding that the board should look at studies done since 1998.

McGovern said no one on the board is a scientist, and that members should not be evaluating data.

“We should have people who can tell us why a standard that is 13 years old is still valid,” he said.

Villecco said he would email the board with information from the FCC Web site regarding cell tower guidelines for local government agencies.

The school district’s Business Administrator Bernard Biesaida said the report is based on what a cellular carrier would put on the site and what could go there.

When asked if there are any other locations for the possible tower, Villecco said the school property is a good site that meets Verizon’s needs.

“We’ve been looking in the area for a while. There is no existing structure in the area,” he said.

Foley said the area has little or no cellular coverage and the company approached the school about placing a tower on the land. Villecco said Verizon identifies areas with deficiencies and looks to fill in the gaps.

Joe Pawelczak, the site acquisition manager for Innovative Engineering in Toms River, said the decision to approach the board did not come lightly.

“We did a lot of due diligence looking at existing structures in the area,” he said.

According to Pawelczak, the JCP&L towers nearby are not available to Verizon due to a company policy based on what can and cannot be co-located on them. Other existing infrastructure in the area is much too short, he said. There is no second choice location at this time, he said.

While the chosen site is near the pole barn on the school property, the tower could go on another part of the school property, Villecco said.

“It depends on the roll of the terrain,” he said.

Nick Gold, who lives behind the middle school, told the board he did not want a cell tower in his backyard.