Campaign Donation Stirs Up Controversy Over Towers at Schools

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Accepting a $500 campaign donation from a tower developer has generated some controversy for an upcoming Anne Arundel County (Maryland) election candidate, according to the Capital Gazette.  Terry Gilleland Jr., a candidate for Anne Arundel County District 5 Board of Education, received his donation from Milestone Tower, Ltd in January, saying the developer wanted to help back his “platform of increased public-private partnerships.”

“I think it’s a bit of a conflict of interest to take funds from a company that has an existing sort of plan in the pipeline to erect cell towers on school property,” his opponent Dana Schallheim told the Gazette. “I’m one thousand percent a ‘no’ on cell towers on or adjacent to school property.” 

With the county saying they are planning to allow the installation of forty more towers on or near school properties, the battlelines are being drawn.  The issue: revenue versus safety. The district stands to profit $5 million from 2012 to 2021, according to the schools chief operating officer Alex Szachnowicz.  Anne Arundel County now has seven towers located on or near school properties. Concerned parents have marshalled efforts to stop the construction of towers, based on their claim of the RF dangers posed to children.

Terry Gilleland not only disagrees with those claims but says a recent tower proposal for Shady Side Elementary would make residents safer by providing more reliable cell phone service for school employees and those in the area.

“It’s been proven that the danger’s actually posed by cell phones, not so much these towers,” Gilleland said.

Most of the school board is in favor of towers being installed near schools, according to school board president Julie Hummer. Hummer is on the same page as Gilleland, in that she believes cell phones are the real health concern, not towers. In district 4, Hummer is running a campaign against Melissa Ellis, who opposes Hummer’s stance on towers.

“There is just not enough information to know that this is a safe practice. We can’t be exposing our students to that kind of risk,” Ellis said.

October 17, 2018