GUNNISON, Colo. (CBS4) – Some parents in Gunnison County are asking school leaders why they agreed to allow cellphone towers to be built on school properties. They want the towers moved before they are turned on.
Roanne Houck and other community members reached out to our CBS4 newsroom, worried the towers being so close to their children’s classrooms could lead to medical issues, even though research right now says the towers are safe.
The newest tower sits on a football field, a footballs throw from where teenagers in Gunnison attend classes.
While this newly-constructed cell tower will soon help people connect in the rural part of of the state, there is now growing efforts to get the tower moved.
“We welcome AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon. We want good cellular service, but we want the towers built in appropriate zones locations, not in the middle of a neighborhood with a school,” Houck told CBS4 Monday.
The decision to sign the contract with Verizon for the towers was made by the previous school superintendent. Parents complain there was little public input.
“We have definitely had some community and parent concerns raised by having cellphone towers installed on two of our campuses,” the newly-hired district Superintendent Leslie Nichols said Monday.
The district receives $15,000 a year in this deal from Verizon for allowing the towers on school property.
“There was no process in terms of no input, and I’ll be without it because I have a high school student otherwise we would’ve never even known until it was all the way up,” Houck explained.
CBS4 reached out to Verizon. A spokesman for the company says they will consider an alternative site for the tower which is not yet constructed in Crested Butte, but will not move the one nearly-complete tower in Gunnison.
While Verizon claims the radio emissions coming off the tower are equal in power to baby monitors and internet routers, many here don’t believe the tower is safe so close to students in the classroom.
“Are the health effects of radio frequency emissions on our children? On the playground or in the schools? We just don’t know for sure, not willing to take that risk with my 9th grade child,” Houck added.
While the school district, local governments and the community work with Verizon to find a solution, moving the Gunnison tower now seems unlikely.
“My dream solution would be to find something that works for the district, for the concerned parents, for Verizon and where everybody could have a win. I don’t know that we’re going to get there about what we’re exploring right now with Verizon and seeing if they would be willing to consider alternative locations due to parent concerns and community concerns,” Nichols said.
That’s not good enough for the parents pushing for the towers to be moved.