The following is a letter to the editor from Christopher Healy:
Twenty five years. Unless we do something now, that is how long the cell tower at Borough Hall will be operating over Markham Place School, the ball fields, and nearby residents because of the Borough's lease with Verizon. Like so many others, I am concerned because my boys and their classmates play on the fields beneath the tower, and, in the years to come, will spend their days looking out at it from their classrooms while we wonder what damage it may be causing. To do nothing in the face of this concern is not an option.
The unfortunate reality of the Borough's lease is that Verizon controls the tower and has no incentive to turn it off because it advances their commercial interest. That is why we need a workable, realistic, and common-sense solution that gives voice to the residents of Little Silver. I have offered that solution. Specifically, I have proposed that the Little Silver Council place on the ballot in November a non-binding referendum question that asks whether the Council should move the cellular component of the existing telecommunications tower at Borough Hall to a new tower to be constructed on suitable Borough property away from school property and residences, remove the platform on the existing telecommunications tower, and re-design the existing telecommunications tower to be more aesthetically pleasing.
Removing the cellular service at Borough Hall will eliminate the potential health risk to our children posed by the existing cell tower so close to Markham Place School, while preserving the public safety needs of our police, fire, and emergency services. Relocating Verizon's cellular service will restore property values impacted by the tower that currently exists and maintain a revenue stream for Little Silver.
This could be done at no significant cost or risk of litigation to the Borough. The Council could offer other, more suitable, Borough-owned land to Verizon that is away from our schools and as far away from homes as possible. By doing so, the Borough would retain its long-term revenue stream and Verizon would maintain its network capability that the Borough's lease gave them, avoiding the certainty of lengthy, expensive litigation. The cost of building a new tower could be borne by Verizon and offset over time by renegotiating the terms of the lease. After removing the cellular capability at the existing tower, a monopole would remain for the operational needs of our police, fire, and emergency services, the aesthetics of which could easily be changed to preserve property values.
We, as a community, deserve to vote on this. By authorizing the referendum process, the Council will allow the residents of Little Silver, who feel left out of the decision to place this tower in the heart of the community for a generation, to finally have their voices heard.
Rather than casting blame, my solution seeks to solve the problem we face in a practical, democratic way. Let's get our kids playing and learning safely again.