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Greater Latrobe won't appeal decision against cellphone tower

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Greater Latrobe school board plans to discourage adding cellphone antennas to the roof of the senior high school. Verizon Wireless' plan had sparked health and safety concerns from the public.

“The district's intention is not to create or perpetuate any health or safety fears, even though the district believes this fear is not warranted,” said Superintendent Judith Swigart during a prepared statement at the school board's meeting Tuesday night.

The 35-foot boxlike structure was approved by the district in November through a five-year lease with Verizon Wireless.

Verizon was responsible under the terms of the lease to receive proper permitting, which included the approval of the Unity zoning hearing board for a special exception because the school is in a residential zone.

The township zoning hearing board denied the request in February in a 3-2 decision, citing concerns about weight on the roof and exhaust from a generator.

Zoning hearing board members Greg Fumea, Tim Thomas and Virginia Murphy, who voted against the decision, were present at the school board meeting on Tuesday.

Swigart, as a part of the statement, said the cellphone company approached the school district more than a year ago because of its location and saw the opportunity to not only provide a service to residents of the districts but to allow Greater Latrobe to have a small alternative source of revenue, necessary after decreases in state funding.

“Greater Latrobe school board does not believe that the antennas pose any health or safety risks; however, the district has decided to ask Verizon not to appeal the zoning board's decision, even though it means a loss of the annual recurring revenue,” she read.

Fumea and Thomas addressed the board after Swigart read the statement.

“I don't think the risk was worth the reward,” Fumea said. “That money was such a minute part of our budget,” Fumea said.

Thomas said the safety and education of the students should be more of a focus than any revenue.

“You're not here to make money, you're here to educate children,” Thomas said.

After the meeting, Solicitor Ned Nakles said the lease is still in place, but without proper permitting, the construction could not move forward.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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