KINGS PARK, N.Y. –– The Board of Education is still contemplating whether to allow Suffolk Wireless Communications to build a 125-foot cell phone tower at Kings Park School District's administration building on Lawrence Road.
But why would a school, church or other private property allow a cell phone antenna to be placed on its grounds? Cell phone companies pay "rent" to place them, and that income can mean all the difference for an under-funded school district or church.
The Kings Park tower could potentially yield the district up to $90,000 for the first year that it is in use, provided all of the tower’s slots are filled, with an additional 3 percent compounded every following year throughout a 30-year agreement—and that represents a very attractive income for the district, whether underfunded or not.
If the Board of Education decides in favor of the installation of the cell phone tower, a permit would have to be secured from the New York State Education Department and the school district’s engineering firm, H2M, would conduct an environmental review to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The tower would also be assessed every 10 years to ensure its safety and stability.
In addition, a study has been conducted by Pinnacle Telecom Group, a New Jersey-based company that specializes in investigating radio frequency emissions to ensure safety. According to the study, the amount of radiation that would come from the Lawrence Road tower would be .9 percent of the allowable limit defined by the Federal Communications Commission; and the tower would be harmless to anyone living near it.
Still, many people are wary that the monetary incentives of building the tower do not outweigh the potential risk involved, including the International Association of Fire Fighters who, according to a SixWise.com article, in 2004 came out against the use of firehouses for cell antennas "until a study with the highest scientific merit" can prove they are safe.
Kings Park resident Ariel Werner, who lives close to the proposed location of the cell tower and whose daughter attends New Discovery, a child center located inside the Lawrence Road building, also has strong reservations about the cell tower installation—and her concerns are not altogether without merit.
Although the American Cancer Society, in its article, “Learn About Cancer”, reports that, based upon studies done with radiofrequency (RF) waves, there is little evidence that “living, working, or going to school near a cell phone tower might increase the risk of cancer or other health problems”, that same article also points out that although most studies to date have not found a link between cell phone use and the development of tumors, “these studies have had some important limitations. This is an area of active research.”
The ACS suggests that if you are concerned about possible exposure from a cell phone tower near your home or office, you ask a government agency or private firm to measure the RF field strength near the tower to ensure that it is within acceptable limits.
The BOE is expected to make a decision this month whether to allow H2M to perform the environmental study for the Lawrence Road tower.