Palm Beach County School Board waits on decision to allow new cell towers on district properties

Board wants more information about tower safety

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - There are new talks concerning the possibility of more cell phone towers coming to Palm Beach County School District properties. 

The towers can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in revenue, but some school board members say safety is a potential concern. 

With insufficient conclusive evidence about the long-term impacts of cell phone towers presented to the board as of yet, some members wish to hold off on allowing more towers until they know more.

There are ten of them towering over Palm Beach County school properties.  Since 1994, cell phone towers have been raising much needed revenue for the district.  An estimated $214,000 is projected to come in in 2012 from cellular companies that lease the school properties.

Talk of adding more towers to raise more money for a budget-strapped district is raising new safety  concerns. 

"I honestly think they should look into it more," said Slatery Costilla, who has two children who attend Okeeheelee Community Middle School. "I think it's a bad idea unless we know more."

Costilla's children attend one of nine schools that currently have cell phone towers on the property.

Some parents say it may be premature to build any new cell phone towers until potential health concerns are better understood.  Board member Karen Brill shares those concerns. 

"I for one am not comfortable unless I know that there is no deleterious affects for our staff and our students," said Brill after a school board workshop on Wednesday. 

The school board decided to delay plans for those new towers.  Cell phone companies argued in studies presented to the board that towers pose little to no safety risk, but board members want more. 

"Hopefully they can bring back some information, but if we don't find it, then I can't support it," she said.

Parents are on the fence.  They want their kids to be safe, but they also want to put a dent in the district's $52 million budget shortfall anticipated for the 2012-2013 school year. 

"Whether they're here at the school or whether they are at home, the kids are going to be around cell phones anyway," said Elena Medina, who also has two children who attend Okeeheelee Community Middle School.  "Something that is not creating any additional safety issues for them, I'm not opposed to it at all."

District officials will be looking into the existing ten towers to see if there are opportunities to increase revenue there. At this point, there is no timetable for a final decision about getting that done. 

"Obviously we want to get a decision as soon as possible because we want to positively impact the budget for next year," said Joseph Sanches, chief of support operations for the district.  "There's still a lot of research to be done on their affect on individuals and especially children." 

The public will have the opportunity to weigh in as the process presses on.

The most recent presentation from the district's Planning and Real Estate Services Department can be seen by clicking here .

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