Press Release - by Nina Beety
PACIFIC GROVE TAKES SCHOOL DISTRICT TO COURT; DEMANDS CONTINUED OPERATION OF CELL TOWER RISKING HEALTH OF PRESCHOOL CHILDREN, MONARCH SANCTUARY, AND RESIDENTS.
Pacific Grove City Manager Tom Frutchey told the Pacific Grove City Council Wednesday night that the city had to "use a stick" on the Pacific Grove Unified School District (PGUSD).
The school district was unwilling to allow continued operation of the controversial AT&T cell tower at the Pacific Grove Adult School (1025 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove) past the end of its lease. This was in part due to public outcry over the health dangers to the small children at the three preschools onsite, impacts to the monarch butterfly sanctuary, which has already experienced fewer butterflies over the last two years, and impacts to the surrounding neighbors. Mr. Frutchey said that the city took PGUSD to court to compel them to maintain operation of the cell tower.
This AT&T cell tower has been the focus of a great deal of controversy. When originally approved by the school district in early 2011, neighbors were not notified and found it suddenly installed within yards of many of their homes. Despite opposition and receiving information on health impacts from the microwave radiation of cell towers, including the action by the World Health Organization which designated this radiation as a Class 2B carcinogen, the school board refused to reconsider its decision.
At the end of the one-year lease period, board members discovered that former Assistant Superintendent Robin Blakely had signed the contract with AT&T for two years instead of the one year approved by the board. Closed session discussions ensued to which the public was not privy. Despite opposition previously expressed by members of the board, AT&T doubled the rent, and the board voted unanimously to approve a lease extension until December 31, 2012. It is unclear whether AT&T threatened to sue the school district if it terminated the faulty lease.
During this time, the school board continued to receive scientific research updates on the health risks to residents and especially the preschool students, as well as to the monarch butterflies, which are protected under a city ordinance.
With the end of the lease, current Assistant Superintendent Rick Miller disconnected the electricity to the cell tower on January 3, 2013 after AT&T did not take action as stipulated in the lease. The City of Pacific Grove immediately contacted Mr. Miller and threatened legal action if the school district did not restore and maintain power to the cell tower, ostensibly to preserve 911 service to residents. However, wire-line service exists throughout Pacific Grove, which provides reliable 911 service, and this service is not impaired by power outages, unlike wireless service.
Because of the school district’s unwillingness to extend the lease, the City of Pacific Grove took the school district to court – the "stick" Mr. Frutchey referred to Wednesday night. Frutchey told the council that last Friday, the three parties – apparently, the school district, the city, and AT&T -- inked a deal to keep the cell tower on for about two months or until a new temporary site is ready.
The city manager thanked Pacific Grove Mayor Bill Kampe for helping to convince the school district to take the deal. Kampe worked in marketing for Hewlett Packard.
"Once again, the public is shut out of this process. Decisions are made behind closed doors on an issue that affects the health and well being of children, residents, and the monarch butterflies. It seems that Mr. Frutchey has no interest in involving the public or in any impacts to the public," said local activist Nina Beety.
The school board meets tonight to approve this deal, though City Manager Frutchey implied the agreement had already been signed. The meeting is at 435 Hillcrest Ave., Pacific Grove.
AT&T has been unable to find anyone in Pacific Grove willing to take its cell tower.
On Dec. 19, City Manager Frutchey announced that he had approved – without Environmental Impact Report (EIR), without permits, without public hearings, without council approval, and apparently without notification to nearby neighbors – the re-location of the AT&T cell tower to the city-owned El Carmelo Cemetery, immediately adjacent to homes and the golf course. This move will be for a period of at least two years or until a permanent site is found.
Beety: "The city is already laboring under the financial burden of CalPERS debt. What happens if the city is hit with lawsuits from irate neighbors who have been denied their due process, with this AT&T cell tower negatively affecting their property values and their viewshed, and creating health problems, including cancer. Could the city go bankrupt as a result of Mr. Frutchey’s actions?"
A request for information on the process and approvals for this cell tower had gotten no response as of Wednesday night.