Debating Cell Towers

AT&T and National Wireless have offered to lease property from School District 203 to install two new cell phone towers at two of their schools.

This would improve the company’s wireless coverage while giving the district additional revenue, but at what cost to the students?

Near the water tower right by Lincoln Junior High School there could possibly be a 100-foot tall cell tower in the future.

School District 203 is debating whether to lease this property at Lincoln Junior High to AT&T, as well as some land at Kennedy Jr. High for a 75-foot high stealth flagpole.

Yet some residents are saying not so fast.

“Please put it on hold,” said Naperville resident Chuck Schlabach. “This is our concern. It’s usually put it in a secluded area. We’re going to be concerned about radiation.”

CFO Brad Cauffman cited research that claims holding a cell phone to your ear is far more dangerous than the radiation from any cell tower. But that wasn’t convincing enough for some.

“Most of the studies don’t focus on children and that’s what’s particularly disconcerting as a parent,” said Lisle resident Ken Banas. “How are developing minds impacted by this that are different than adults?”

Still, the district agreed to at least explore the possibilities, as the plan would bring in additional revenue with one of two leasing options: The first: AT&T would pay the district $660,000 upfront, plus an additional $1.5 million in monthly payments over 25 years, totaling $2.16 million. Alternatively: No upfront fee, but slightly greater monthly payments totaling $2.25 million.

“As much as we like the idea of alternative revenue and new ways to provide revenue for the district, this was not something we actively sought. The vendor came to us,” said Superintendent Dan Bridges. “I think it’s important to note that we’re going to work on our timeline and on our needs and not on the vendor’s timeline or the vendor’s needs.”

Board members liked the idea that the extra money could fund major track and/or turf improvements at the impacted schools.

“This is going to give us the opportunity to give us some badly needed athletic space in our junior highs because it’s going to make a huge down payment on it,” said board member Mike Jaensch.

The board did not take any action nor did it plan to do so in the near future but agreed to carry forward with the debate.

Members requested more information on the pros and cons, including health hazards specific to children.

Should it go any further, administrators plan to have various open houses and public hearings to get the community’s input.

If the district does eventually approve the plan, it will also have to be approved by the city council because the impacted properties are designated as residential but need to be rezoned for commercial use.

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