District 203 discusses cell tower proposal

File Photo
File Photo

NAPERVILLE — Naperville School District 203 leadership promised that any plans to build cell towers at two junior high schools will be thoroughly vetted in the community if the board decides to proceed.

“We want to be mindful of the community and our parents and listen to their input,” said Superintendent Dan Bridges.

Should the district continue to move forward, more formal community input will be sought, he stressed repeatedly Monday night when the School Board heard about a proposal from National Wireless and AT&T.

The companies are asking District 203 for permission to erect a 100-foot pole near the water tower behind Lincoln Junior High in Naperville and a 75-foot pole at the front of Kennedy Junior High School in Lisle.

The 40-by-40-foot fenced space at Lincoln would include the tower as well as a small building to house equipment. At Kennedy, the tower would look like a flag pole surrounded by a 19-by-19-foot brick stand, where the equipment would be locked.

A year ago, National Wireless and AT&T approached the School District about leasing space. In November, the request was brought before the board, who then asked the administration to bring back a proposal for consideration.

The tower at Lincoln could generate $3,000 a year with an annual 2.5 percent annual escalator clause with revenues totaling $1.2 million after 25 years, said Brad Cauffman, District 203 chief financial officer.

He said the district also has the option to collect a 10-year lease payment of $300,000 upfront. The remaining $826,358 would be collected in monthly payments, with a 2.5 percent upfront discount.

At Kennedy, the lease could be $2,500 month with an annual 2.5 percent annual escalator clause. If the district collected monthly payments, the total revenue after 25 years would be $1 million, Kauffman said. The same option of collecting $300,000 upfront for the first 10 years of the lease is available. Kauffman said the district would get $688,633 for the remaining 15 years, reduced $36,100 for the 2.5 percent for the cost of the upfront discount.

The plan to erect a tower at Kennedy Junior High is not sitting well from parents in the neighborhood.

Ken Banas said he represents a number of families from the school community who oppose any cell tower.

Banas said while the American Cancer Society has said most scientists agree that cell phone antennas or towers are unlikely to cause cancer, but “that’s not all scientists.” He said took years before science determined that asbestos was bad, and that same unknown risk should be considered with radiofrequency waves.

Kauffman’s report shows St. Charles School District 303 has dual towers at St. Charles East High School at a monthly lease of $2,280. Indian Prairie School District 204 has two towers at Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley high schools with six different carriers. Those leases vary from $1,300 to $1,407 per carrier.

“Just because others made that decision doesn’t make it right,” Banas said.

Charles Schlabach, an expert in the telecommunications field who leaves near Kennedy Junior High, urged the board to “please give this a second thought before you move forward.”

Superintendent Dan Bridges said as the School District’s finances get tighter, it is the district’s responsibility to look for alternative revenue sources, though it was the vendor that approached the district.

Kauffman’s report also outlined how revenues might be used. Turf and/or track improvements at Kennedy could cost $1 million to $2 million, depending on the extent of work. Similar work at Lincoln Junior High is estimated to cost between $750,000 and $1.75 million.

Several board members liked the possibility of using tower revenues for track improvements.

The trade-off is that the district can put a significant down payment on much-needed athletic space, said School Board member Mike Jaensch. Fellow member Terry Field said it would be a windfall for junior highs to get the tracks that can be used by the high schools and the community.

School Board President Jackie Romberg said safety aspect raises numerous questions, but

Romberg said she constantly hears “no more taxes, no more taxes,” so it would be in the best interest of the board to look at any means that reduces further burden on taxpayers.

Even if at some point the school board supports plans for the two towers, the telecommunications still would need approval from Naperville and Lisle before proceeding.

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