Thursday, December 4, 2008

Radiating the kids and neighbours

Are these School Board Officials stupid? Can they not understand the adverse health effects of microwave radiation? At one time children were loaded with nice safe books for reading and learning. Why are they now being submerged in dangerous microwave radiation? See the article below.


What message does tower send to neighbors?

By Denise Holley
Published Tuesday, November 25, 2008 9:00 AM MST

Residents of Plum Street watched as construction crews cleared a space in the Nogales Unified School District No.1 parking lot around Nov. 9 and began erecting a huge pole, said Ana Doan. She lives up the street from the new 167-foot tower that will beam the district’s new Internet service to its school sites.

“I would ask people and no one knew what it was,” Doan said. She called Manuel Ruiz, county supervisor and school board member, and City Manager Jaime Fontes. At the time, neither knew what the antenna was for, she said.

“I was taken back that this tower came about overnight,” said Leticia Munoz, a resident of Home Circle, a street that overlooks the NUSD building. “The neighbors weren’t taken into consideration.”

The project will increase the district’s bandwidth from 3 megabits to 100 megabits, said Superintendent Shawn McCollough. It came before the NUSD board in two public meetings.

“We need to be more forthcoming with information for the community,” McCollough said. He stopped work on the project last week after a couple of neighbors objected and did some research.

Trillion, the contractor, made a public presentation to the board in May 2007, McCollough said. In January 2008, when Guillermo Zamudio was still the superintendent, the board approved the contract.

McCollough consulted with the school district attorney and read the state attorney general’s opinion on antennas, he said. He looked at safety, too.

“The poles are sunk 25 feet in the ground and are within the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) guidelines,” McCollough said. “It was legal and safe. We have a legally binding contract with Trillion. I told them to go ahead and finish the project.”

Receiver towers at school sites were completed last weekend, he said.

NUSD took advantage of a federal program called E-Rate that gives large discounts on technology to school districts, McCollough said. The new system would have cost $217,611 a year without the E-Rate grant. Now the annual cost will be $21,761.

Doan described the tower as “an industrial-size antenna” in a historic neighborhood. “It’s 1970s technology,” she said. “We have fiber optics.”

Heidi Ortiz, a member of the NUSD governing board with a background in telephone and Internet systems, said the district’s current Internet system was too slow.

“It takes forever for the teachers to post grades and for parents to access information,” she said.

The NUSD board approved the Internet upgrade contract with Trillion in January 2008, Ortiz recalled. She had hoped the district would put in a fiber-optic system, strung on existing poles, she said, that would belong to the district.

But WiFi is three times cheaper than fiber optics, McCollough said. The E-Rate grant for the upgrade required a WiFi system.

“It’s good for the schools,” Ortiz said. “They will never be without the Internet.”

In an emergency, if the phones go out, “they can flip over to the WiFi system.

Neighbors are upset because no one told them why the tower was going up, Ortiz said. “The door-knocking didn’t happen.”

Why didn’t the district notify the community?

“The school district is a political governing body in the state of Arizona and is immune from zoning laws,” said George Lineiro, planning and zoning director for the City of Nogales. “The antennas are a core function of the educational system.”

Trillion contacted the city last summer and obtained a building permit, he said.

Since the towers would be used only for educational purposes, “we determined that our laws would not apply,” said Assistant City Attorney Michael Massee.

Doan worries about the health effects of emissions from the towers, especially from the towers situated near classrooms and playgrounds at schools, she said.

“I ask that they (towers) be removed and that they put these towers up on hills where people do not live,” Doan said.

McCollough emphasized that teaching is driven by the Internet.

“The faster speeds are going to open up the rest of the world to students in Nogales “ museums, news reports, and interactive lessons,” he said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to deprive children of learning opportunities.”