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Clayton BOE kills T-Mobile tower proposal

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A proposal to build a cell phone tower on the Clayton-Henry county line got a bad reception from the Clayton County Board of Education, on Monday.

Clayton County Public Schools would have leased part of a piece of property it owns on Steele Road, in Ellenwood, to cell phone company, T-Mobile, for five years, if the lease had been approved.

The land is also slated to be the future site of a replacement facility for East Clayton Elementary School, district officials have said.

The agreement would have given T-Mobile permission -- pending zoning approval and permits from the county government -- to build a cell phone tower on the property.

But, when School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson called for a motion to approve the proposal, the board made a rare move. All nine members just looked at each other, and stayed silent. No one made a motion to approve the lease, and it, therefore, died without a vote ever taking place.

Board members said a lack of communication doomed the tower issue.

"Nobody ever showed us an illustration, showing us the plat where the tower was going to go, or where the school was going to go," said board member, Pamela Adamson. "They could have been planning to put that tower right in the middle of the property for all we know. We just didn't have enough information to take a vote."

School board attorney, Glenn Brock, said the issue could be brought up again, because no vote was ever taken on the measure, but School System Chief Operations Officer Cephus Jackson said that is not likely to happen.

"The board rejected it," Jackson said. "So far as I know, it's a dead issue."

Chairperson Anderson said board members did what their constituents expected them to do, in instances where there was a lack of information about a proposal being recommended by the school system. She said board members did not pre-plan the lack of a motion, although she conceded all nine board members had made her aware that they felt there was a lack of information.

"When our constituents elected us, there was one thing that they expected us to do, and that was to make sure we did our homework before we voted on anything," she said. The board chairperson later added, "If you don't have the information, why would you make a motion to take a vote on something?"

Anderson refused to say whether she felt the lack of information was the fault of the school system, or T-Mobile.

Adamson said there was also a lack of health-related information, on top of missing information about exactly where the tower would go on the property. She said the board was not sure if there would be a health issue.

"No one gave us any information about any health hazards this [the tower] might pose to children," she said.

During the meeting, board member, Jessie Goree, raised concerns about possible electromagnetic emissions from the tower. She also said she did not feel comfortable having a cell phone tower near a school.

"We need to do a little more research about the effect a cell phone tower would have on children," Goree said. "I would personally not like my child to be at a site with a cell phone tower on it."

When the school board members did not make a motion to approve the lease with T-Mobile, and Anderson declared the proposal had,"failed," several parents began to cheer.

"I don't think we've done our research on that tower," said Morrow resident, Searless Hathaway, a frequent board watcher.

Meanwhile, the board approved the district's purchasing, financial, and personnel reports; its Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) construction update; WORKTEC contracts with the Atlanta Regional Commission, and revisions to board policies dealing with inter-organizational relations, and relationships with other agencies.