Improper Public Review of Tower Planned at School Faces Backlash

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UPDATE  Parents, school staff and neighbors are upset that construction of an 80-foot cell phone tower is underway at the Gunnison High School football field without public input; parents were notified of the construction already underway via email on December 7. They contend that a proper review of the project did not occur prior to approval, reported the Gunnison Country Times.

The project, which has been underway since spring 2017,  is intended to replace a 60-foot light pole on the edge of the football field.

 The new tower will provide lights at the same height and orientation for the field, and the cell antennas will extend above the lights. Verizon also received approval to install equipment on the roof of the Crested Butte Community School. In exchange, RE1J will receive $15,000 per site, for a total of $30,000 annually, from Verizon. Former Superintendent Doug Tredway began the project and signed a 10-year contract with the carrier.  

Current Superintendent Leslie Nichols also noted the benefit of improved connectivity to the school district from the planned tower, which could be vital in an emergency.

Despite initially waiving authority on the matter, city leaders are now backtracking the process by requesting that Gunnison Watershed RE1J School District conduct a public hearing on the Verizon tower, and to work with the company to cease construction until that happens. The school district will be required to hold that hearing at the city’s request, according to state statute.

A concerned group of citizens appeared before both the School Board and City Council to air their grievances, including concerns over health and property value impacts. Chief among the complaints was the lack of review the project received, reported the Times.

According to Gunnison resident Jonathan Houck, “There’s the lack of process, there’s a lack of transparency. There’s potential that the city did not contemplate the fact that (the project) is not a school district use.”

Houck said the group was not asking the district to violate its contract, but to help achieve a “moment of pause” until everyone’s needs could be assessed.

February 6, 2019   

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