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Council urged to deny Verizon access contract

Staff writer

Members of the public urged Marion city council members Monday to deny a proposed contract that would allow Verizon Wireless access to the old water tower west of the high school as a possible place for a wireless antenna.

The meeting room was packed with 35 onlookers, many of whom wanted to have their say on the Right of Entry contract proposal. Extra chairs had to be brought to the meeting room to accommodate the crowd.

Verizon has been seeking to place a cell tower in Marion since spring this year. A vocal group of opponents, mostly residents in an earlier-proposed location, objected in March to a cell phone tower being installed at Commercial and Forest Sts. They contended the city had not clearly specified the proposed location of the tower and not mailed letters to them 20 days before a scheduled public hearing. Neighbors are also worried about possible health threats arising from exposure to cell phone tower transmissions and declining property values.

On Monday, many of the same opponents spoke to council members again.

Ruth Herbel, a candidate for city council as well as a former planning and zoning commission member, said the path being taken by the city violates its own planning and

zoning regulations and will end up in an appeal.

“Once an appeal application is made, then everything stops until the hearing is held by the board of zoning appeals,” Herbel said.

Herbel also said a cell phone antenna could emit dangerous radiation to the nearby middle school and high school.

“If you vote yes, you will be handing a death sentence to some or all of the children that spend six years in junior high and high school and are within the radiation area,” Herbel said. “Stop and think about this. How many of you know someone that has been affected by cancer or have been affected yourself? Cancer is a byproduct of radiation. Save the children. Vote no.”

Opponents urged the council to talk with school district officials to see how they feel about the possibility of a cell phone antenna placed so close to the school.

School board member Javan Koehn said several parents have phoned him to say they will withdraw their children from Marion schools if an antenna is mounted on the water tower.

“I just think the council should be aware of that,” Koehn said.

Darvin Markley urged the council to table the contract until they have talked to the school board.

Autumn Hanson, whose business and residence are near an earlier proposed cell phone tower site, said she urged council members to hold a public hearing similar to one held in March.

“This will affect a lot more people,” Hanson said.

City attorney Susan Robson said the right of entry agreement does not mean Verizon would be able to install an antenna on the water tower.

“This means the city will allow them to go onto the property,” Robson said. “They need to see if it’s feasible or not feasible.”

Council members tabled the agreement to allow members of Marion’s school board to discuss the proposal and make suggestions to the council.

Last modified Oct. 10, 2019

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