COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - First, a cell phone tower went up at Summit Parkway Middle. Then, another appeared at Blythewood High School. Now, a third tower is coming to Kelly Mill Middle School campus, and parents are asking…“Why?”
“I don’t see the safety of our kids being up for sale like this, it’s concerning,” said parent Kimberly Toogood, “I think it’s a great combination of the aesthetics, the health concerns, the safety of the towers.”
Toogood is a parent at Lake Carolina Elementary, which sits directly beside Kelly Mill Middle. She and other parents have signed a petition that has garnered more than 500 signatures opposing the construction of the tower. But, the tower’s still going up.
“I don’t understand why the district has decided to move forward with this considering how much opposition the community has given,” Toogood said.
District representatives say they were approached for years by companies wanting to build on Richland 2 properties before deciding to open up a Request for Proposals back in the Spring of 2016. That summer, the district awarded a marketing contract to Milestone Communications in Virginia.
“When the tower goes up, we receive a payment, I believe it’s somewhere between $20-30,000, and then once the tower has carriers on it, we receive annual payments based on that,” said Richland District 2 Chief Communications Officer Libby Roof. “That money goes into our general operating budget. So we use it to pay for things that we might otherwise have to divert funds that would go towards the classroom.”
Parents like Toogood say they don’t believe enough long-term research has been done regarding the health effects to make them feel comfortable having the tower so close to their children. District representatives say the towers are safe.
“We certainly respect and appreciate their concerns and really appreciate the fact that they came and talked to us about it,” Roof said. “ The district, with the information that’s been provided to us by Milestone Communications, as well as we have looked to verify the information…there’s no credible established evidence that shows that these transmission towers cause harm.”
Toogood says she’s heard what the district has to say…but it’s just not enough.
“It’s not that we’re anti-tower,” Toogood said. “I just don’t see why it’s up for debate with the kids. If there’s a question that it could hurt the children, why do this?”
The towers sit on the outskirts of these campuses, typically near the football fields and/or close to the perimeter of the property. The district representatives say they have an agreement in their contract with the communications company that says if at any time there is an issue or the federal government changes the regulations, they can take immediate action to turn off the cell signal on the towers.