Much to Councilman Dan McGuire’s dissatisfaction, the city council approved an application from Verizon Wireless Tuesday to add an antenna to a light pole on the east side of North Platte High School’s parking lot.
As part of a contract between Verizon and the school board, Verizon will use the ticket booth at the north side of the football field to house the equipment required to operate the antennae.
In exchange, Verizon will pay to construct a new ticket booth on the other side of the field.
Citing cancer research studies, McGuire strongly disapproved. He said students could be put at risk with a tower so close to the school. He moved to table the item until the possibility is better researched.
Councilmen Jerry Stoll and Jim Carman agreed with McGuire. They said they wanted to be better informed before making any hasty decisions.
North Platte resident Tia McGuire told the council that a 10-year study conducted in Germany showed that people who live within a quarter-mile of a cell phone tower are three times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer. A similar 10-year study in Israel showed that people are four times more likely to develop cancer if they live close to a cell tower.
On the other hand, Judy Clark of the North Platte Planning and Zoning office said the American Cancer Society claims there is no definite correlation between cancer prevalence and cell towers.
Councilwoman Judy Pederson said nearly every medical facility in the nation has a similar antennae mounted on the roof of their building, hence, fears of cancer are strongly refutable.
Councilman Larry Campbell said he didn’t want to delay the action. He said the council could always retouch the issue if problems arise.
“Are you saying we should wait until there’s a cancer epidemic?” McGuire asked Campbell.
“Look around. Almost every youngster has a cell phone in their pocket. If they do cause cancer, it’s already too late,” Campbell replied.
“I respectfully disagree with that,” McGuire said.
North Platte resident and realtor Lawrence Ostendorf owns several properties across the street from the high school. Ostendorf attended the meeting Tuesday to say one thing.
“I don’t have any problem with this at all,” he said.
McGuire’s motion to table the action was shot down on a 5-3 vote. The council voted 6-2 to authorize the tower.
Carman sided with McGuire. Stoll changed his mind.
Fourth and Willow
After that issue was resolved, the council tabled an application from Viaero Wireless to build a 100-foot cell tower at the corner of Fourth and Willow.
City Attorney Doug Stack urged the council to table the item.
Several residents expressed safety concerns previously when the Planning Commission reviewed the Viaero application, and others, including Ostendorf, worried that the tower would be an eyesore and decrease property value.
Stack said other issues about the tower were not addressed at that meeting.
The Planning Commission unanimously voted against the tower.
New fire equipment
The council also granted $23,000 for the fire department to purchase a spectrometer to detect and identify hazardous chemicals, as well as a 4-wheel drive ambulance.
Chief Paul Pedersen said a spectrometer can identify unknown chemicals in less than a minute.
“It’s cutting-edge technology,” Pedersen said.
The fire department was using multi-step test kits that took at least 45 minutes to give results.
Pedersen said the fire department has six ambulances, but none have four-wheel-drive. The new ambulance will replace a 20-year-old ambulance that is racking up mileage.
Ninety percent of the costs of the spectrometer and new ambulance will be paid by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Unanimously approved the final reading to amend an ordinance which will allow the discharge of fireworks on city-owned property during special occasions.
Public firework displays will be allowed during Rail Fest in September and other local events.
The amendment now allows the discharge of fireworks on city property, but users have to apply for a conditional use permit.
Fire Chief Pedersen noted that it is still illegal to set off fireworks on any public property, without a specific permit.
Pedersen said many residents are cited for setting off fireworks on public property, but so many do it that “it’s just unenforceable.”
In other action, the council
• Updated an interlocal agreement to provide mutual fire aid in an emergency. The agreement includes fire departments from Arnold, Brady, Curtis, Hershey, Maxwell, Maywood/Welfleet, Paxton, Stapleton, Sutherland, Tryon and Wallace.
• Unanimously approved the second of three readings to amend an ordinance to allow above-ground fuel storage tanks in city limits without any discussion.
• Awarded $195,432 to Cement Products Inc. for the first part of work on the new city bus barn west of Cody Park.
• Authorized the replat of three lots between 1300-1326 E. Fourth in the Wyman Second Subdivision, dividing one lot.
• Authorized the division of one parcel of property on 2220 E. Walker Road into two lots.