21 January 2016
Plans to erect a cellphone tower within 440 feet of an elementary/middle school are officially dead.
Verizon’s proposal to the Hazleton Area School District to place the tower near Valley Elementary/Middle School has been scrapped, according to district superintendent Dr. Craig Butler.
A group of Valley parents headed by Bill and Gabrielle Gaydos caught the attention of media last week as they voiced their concerns over the tower’s construction.
The Hazleton Area School Board, which signed a contract to go ahead with the project during November’s regular meeting, reconsidered going ahead with the tower and sought a way to take back their green light without endangering litigation.
And they were successful.
District Treasurer and Assistant Business Manager Robert Krizansky took the lead on making this happen and achieved success Saturday.
Krizansky contacted Sue Manchel of Wireless Access Technologies, who was serving as an intermediary between the school district and Verizon.
The Philadelphia-area company helps corporations such as Verizon with site acquisitions.
Krizansky said that Manchel voluntarily withdrew Verizon’s request to build on the site. And while he has not yet received the paperwork confirming this action, he is confident that the deal is, in effect, dead.
He said that the request was accomplished amicably, as Manchel told him, “Verizon does not want to make enemies.”
The district would have received $1,500 a month in a rental fee for the tower had it been constructed with the potential of earning additional passive income in stages of additional development. Krizansky said it would have been likely.
He explained that the district might have collected rental income from companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile, which routinely rent tower space from Verizon.
The district currently rents out land that holds one Verizon tower at the their garage on 23rd and Peace streets.
In addition to the $1,500 monthly fee, a 3 percent increase in rent was promised for each additional year that the tower stands.
Should Verizon rent space on this tower to its competitors, the district will collect 30 percent of each lease fee.
The the garage-property tower has improved reception at the high school and in the Career Center, which had dead zones, according to Krizansky. “It has improved tenfold since the installation,” he said.
Additionally, he wished to clarify that the district did not go to Verizon seeking to put towers on its property.
“We did not seek them out,” he said.
Rather it was the other way around.
He was told that Verizon sought the local towers because of the high number of area users who cannot get call access because of current and growing traffic. “Ordinances,” Krizansky said, “require companies like Verizon to go to school districts and municipalities first,” when they request tower space.
As for the future of cellphone towers on district property — it looks murky at best, Butler said.
“We would have to approach any requests with caution and great hesitation,” he said.
While no one protested the in-city tower at the garage that needed a variance for its construction — since it was built closer to apartments than the recommended industry standard — the Valley parents acted quickly and achieved their goal, citing health concerns and the impact that cell towers have on lowering real estate values.
When Gaydos received an unofficial report of the tower’s demise on Tuesday, he let go a great sigh of relief.
“I was so happy, I could have cried,” he said.