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Board seeks more information about Verizon proposal

The Fayetteville-Manlius School District Board of Education has rescinded a contract with Verizon Wireless to install micro cell antennas on two school buildings while it gathers more information about the potential emissions from the proposed antenna.

“While we have been assured by a third-party consultant that the radiofrequency electromagnetic exposure levels are well below FCC limits, we want to go the extra step to assure our parents that there would be no harmful effects to their children if these antenna are installed,” Superintendent Craig J. Tice said.

The board discussed the contract at its Oct. 16 meeting and decided to void the contract while it pursues a review by an occupational medicine provider. These types of specialists focus on workplace health and the health outcomes of environmental exposures.

Verizon Wireless is seeking to improve the reliability of its network in the Fayetteville and Manlius communities, as well as inside some F-M buildings, by installing micro cell antennas on top of two school buildings.

The communications company’s proposal is not part of the proposed facilities project that the board of education is asking district residents to consider on Dec. 5, so the decision to rescind the Verizon contract in no way impacts the deadlines or scope of the facilities project proposal.

The communications company had proposed installing six 4-foot booster antennas (three each) on the roofs of Wellwood and Eagle Hill middle schools. The antennas, which would be concealed within cylinders that resemble stovepipes, would improve Verizon users’ experiences inside the two school buildings and the surrounding community.

Verizon had a third-party consultant approved by the state review its plans and determine exposure levels.

“The proposed communications facility will comply with all applicable exposure limits and guidelines adopted by the FCC governing human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields,” states a letter from the consulting engineer to a Verizon official. “With the proposed new antenna in service, the actual exposure levels for the general public that occupy the building and pedestrians on the street will be well below 1 percent of the FCC exposure limits under any circumstances with the facility in place.”

Since some parents raised concerns to the F-M board about the installation of the antennas, the board decided to gather as much information as possible before continuing with the proposal. The plan also would need approval by the village of Fayetteville and the town of Manlius planning boards if the district chooses to re-enter a contract with Verizon after the proposal is reviewed by an occupational medicine provider.

Currently, there are some areas within the schools where there is little or no reception, which could pose a safety issue in the event of an emergency. Users outside the buildings also may experience service issues during peak usage time.

The micro antenna that Verizon proposed are one of the smallest versions currently in use and would essentially serve as boosters for existing cell towers in the area, said Chris Borncamp, a Network Building & Consulting site acquisition specialist who is working with Verizon. The boosters would have a two-prong effect: give users in the surrounding area a stronger signal and allow the existing nearby cell towers to act more efficiently, Mr. Borncamp said.