Hillsborough weighs in again on cell phone towers at schools

02/18/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday

The continuing saga of what to do about cell phone towers located on Hillsborough County School campuses came back before the Hillsborough County Commission today.

Last week, the School Board rejected a request sent in a letter by County Commission Chair Ken Hagen to delay approving any further towers until the issue could be dealt with. Hagen asked County Attorney Adam Gormly today if a change could be made in the County’s Land Development Code to require that a community meeting be held prior to a school installing such towers .

Populist anger among the parents of students at some of the affected schools has grown in the past few months, who believe the towers are not safe for their children, and that there has not been adequate notice or discussion before those towers were erected.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita said she wanted to ensure that there were at least two community meetings so that all concerned parents of affected schools would be adequately informed.

Ferlita also wanted to have a representative from the School Board at these community meetings.

According to the current regulations, the school principal holds the exclusive right to determine whether such cell towers should be built on a particular school campus.

Commissioner Ferlita said that by ensuring community meetings, the principal's decision would be informed with more outside involvement.

Commissioner Kevin White asked if the board could take away the power the law currently allows the principal to have to make such a weighty decision.

Ultimately, the Board stripped away those considerations, and said they would see about making the change in code to give the public more involvement.

Earlier in the day, citizens wearing orange T-shirts that read “No Towers at Schools” came before the board, to thank them for their attempt last week to stop the School Board from continuing to approve more such towers.

Brenda Coker called the cell phone saga a "dark side show that contains all the plot elements like conflict, money and deception, and blasted the School Board of the County."

Coker also reserved some vitriol for Stacy Frank, the president of Collier Enterprises II, which has exclusive rights to broker deals between Hillsborough schools and cell phone companies. Frank has questioned the concerned parents, saying why aren’t they asking that every antenna in the city be removed or stop using their cell phones.

Bill Cook says that the change in the zoning law gives too much power to Hillsborough County School principals.

The Board will try to make a change in the Land Development Code to allow for more involvement with the public in such decisions.

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