BY DALTON ROTH
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
When Verizon began planning the construction of a 5G cellular tower next to Elk Meadow Elementary School in Bend two years ago, the city notified property owners within a 750-foot radius of the proposed tower location.
But very few of the students who attend the school live within that radius and now parents feel it is too late for them to fight its construction.
“Why aren’t we as parents being given the same opportunity to appeal a cell tower being built next to our childrens school as residents are?” asked Jenelle Sylvester, a concerned parents.
Dozens of concerned parents packed a Bend City Council meeting Wednesday night to oppose the tower and urge councilors to be their voice against the project. A petition opposing the tower now has more than 1,300 signatures.
City Councilors say their hands are tied because federal law prohibits them from blocking the tower’s construction. But the tower’s opponents feel like that is a cop-out
“If you say our hands our tied, nothing is going to happen, it’s up to you to put things into action,” said Tiffany Thorton.
Elizabeth Szabo said, “We need you, Mr King, City Manager, to pick up the phone and call Verizon on our behalf to get this tower relocated. You have the power.”
In June, Oregon passed Senate Bill 283, which declared an “emergency” regarding outdated wireless safety standards
The bill calls for a study of the health affects of wireless exposure in schools by the start of 2021, but parents feel that is too long to gamble with their children’s health.
“We choose to use cell phones, but these children are not choosing to put a cell tower within this radius of their school,” said Brianna, another concerned parent.
“We all know the health affects of wireless radiation – children absorb much more radiation then adults,” argued Jennifer Barren. “And you guys did this; you allowed this to happen. So my question to you is whose going to pay the medical bills for these kids at the school?”
Verizon has started construction on the tower and parents don’t know what more they can do to stop it.
“The school board is saying it’s not their responsibility, you guys are saying it’s not your responsibility,” Sylvester said. “I think this is an issue for this tower, my family, my neighborhood, the Elk Meadow community, but it’s also an issue for other schools in Bend. Something has to change.
“Other cities have successfully relocated, some even after they’re up and operational, because other city managers have stepped up and represented their residents to make it happen. We need you to have our backs on this,” said Szabo.