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Ligonier Valley school directors consider cell tower

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 12:57 p.m.

Ligonier Valley School District officials hope to get $1,750 a month if they lease 10,000 square feet of land to Verizon Wireless for construction of a cell phone tower.

Chris Barton presented the idea to school directors and offered them the possibility of $1,000 a month for nearly 30 years for a 100-by-100 foot plot of land near R.K. Mellon Elementary and Middle schools, off of Bell Street in Ligonier Township.

Barton is part of the site acquisition team for Chicago-based NTPWireless, a contractor used by Verizon.

School directors voted to ask for $750 more per month during this negotiation period.

Barton said the district property is among five sites that could be used to increase Verizon's cell phone service throughout the Valley, either by installing an antennae on an existing building or building a tower on the property.

“I want to make it clear that this is not a contract,” school director Irv Tantlinger said. “This is just a letter of intent. Everything is still under negotiation.”

Barton said he hopes to get similar letters of intent from those who manage the other four properties — one piece of borough-owned land and three churches.

“Right now we're just kind of looking at which people are interested in working with Verizon,” Barton said. “I'll try to firm that all up in the next two weeks and send it to Verizon. Then their engineers will look at it, and tell me if there's a ‘priority property' at which time I'll begin obtaining the necessary permits.”

Parent Partick Hulbert voiced his concern for the tower.

“A cell phone tower that close with school kids playing at risk could pose a health risk,” Hulbert said. “Putting kids at risk for $1,000 is not worth it. That's not even a significant income.”

School directors also discussed replacing the aging roof at Laurel Valley Elementary School.

Superintendant Chris Oldham said the roof is 35 years old and has “exhausted its useful life expectancy.

“It leaks in some spots and we've been patching it, but it's time,” she said.

School directors used $70,000 of surplus money to pay off the loan that covered the roof replacement at Ligonier Middle School.

Business Manager Don Irwin said the district is in a good position financially to get the project under way, despite a recent report that indicated the current roof could last a few more years.

Irwin said the district would take out a loan to cover the cost of the project. Irwin said the project is expected to cost between $500,000 and $700,000, and the work is expected to be completed this summer.

Jewels Phraner is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or jphraner@tribweb.com.

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