The Kalispell School District is accepting comments on a proposal to put a cellular tower on top of a local high school.
Verizon Wireless approached Kalispell Public Schools a few months ago wanting to install communications equipment on top of Flathead High School, which is currently being remodeled.
Verizon is offering a little more than $20,000 a year to rent a section of rooftop space for five years, with options for Verizon to extend the contract. A spokesperson says engineers deemed the school rooftop the best location to add network capacity and meet increasing customer needs.
A group of local residents is circulating a petition that opposes the proposal, citing potential health impacts for students, teachers and local residents, as well as a loss in property values.
Ming Lovejoy is on the Committee for Responsible Information on the Health of Children and Cell Tower Exposure.
“Historically, even issues like thalidomide or lead, asbestos, all of these things. They were certainly allowed to be sold and marketed and used to a great extent before the jury was in on the negative health effects. And during that time, many, many people suffered and died,” she says.
Lovejoy says a handful of studies show increased rates of headaches, dizziness and memory problems among people living near cell towers.
Her committee is showing a documentary on the topic, called Generation Zapped, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Flathead High School auditorium at 7 p.m.
Verizon has placed cell towers on schools before. A spokesperson says its number of towers in Montana and its average rental payments are proprietary information.
The Kalispell School Board of Trustees, in charge of approving or denying the proposal, will host an hour-long public forum on the cell tower prior to their next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 15 at 5 p.m. at Kalispell Middle School.
The Board may take up the issue at that time or push the vote back to June 12.
The school district is accepting comments through June 8 and has received about 25 written comments so far.