This is a blog about Stone Mountain's Smoke Rise Elementary School, sort of. But, first a little background...
Ever since my husband and I heard about the ridiculous proposal being considered by the DeKalb County School Board last May, we have tried to warn others. We started with our neighborhood, branched out to our school community and then reached out to other schools near ours.
We wrote to various blog websites, the local media and started petitions. We called and wrote to school board members, the PTA, our principal, the county and state government officials and friends from various school districts across the country. We used the name Get the Cell Out -Atlanta Chapter because we had heard about a group in California that had a similar bad encounter with T-mobile several years before our school board decided they were a reputable vendor to lock in for the next several decades (while they agree to take all the bonus money up front leaving the next couple of generations to deal with the downfall of the already outdated technology and the expense of trying to get out of the contract).
We even had residents contact us long after the decision was already made because they saw a video I put on YouTube that showed the large number of cell towers we already have in DeKalb County all around us.
We've worked together with several groups throughout all parts of the county to bring awareness to this issue. We've asked all the right questions about how something like this can happen without anyone standing up for the rights of the citizens. We just haven't received any good answers, so we have worked our way along the chain of command. And many people have joined in our efforts along the way.
The county commissioners heard the many, many complaints on this issue and jointly penned a letter to CEO Burrell Ellis on March 27. The letter explains the zoning ordinance already in place that would normally stop cell towers (aka telecommunications towers) from being built in residential neighborhoods or with building in their "fall zone." They raised their concerns with the CEO that the BOE or T-mobile may try to apply for an Administrative Permit to avoid the proper review normally necessary and to avoid the public notification requirements of a Special Land Use permit.
School Board Chairman Dr. Eugene Walker was quoted in Neighborhood Newspapers as stating that the commissioners were overstepping their authority by writing the letter. Overstepping? Really? We're talking about the people who were elected into office for the precise purpose of enforcing our county codes and building regulations. These are the folks who are trained for this purpose and Dr. Walker thinks it is out of line for them to want to do their jobs?
Dr. Walker must have his degree in "Spin" because the Supreme Court of Georgia doesn't agree with his interpretation the school exemption laws. The court ruled that the exemption is only permitted when the property is used for governmental or public purposes, not for a proprietary purpose (money generating), which clearly that is the ONLY reason T-mobile / ATT is interested in the deal at all.
So, what's going on with Smoke Rise Elementary?
That's what we have been wondering because they have mostly kept quiet during all the cell tower discussions. Does that mean they are in favor? Or does it mean they still don't know about what's coming? Or does it mean that someone in charge of their charter had to make a deal with the devil and can't figure a way out of it now.
I have driven through the Smoke Rise community and handed out a few flyers, but a lot of the homes are gated and I thought I might be mistaken for a door to door solicitor. But, I can't help wondering ... does anyone at Smoke Rise know about the cell tower? Do they care?
The school is in a nice neighborhood that might not want to see property values go down, but perhaps they believe the new school will make their value go up. What new school? Oh, that's right, you might not know if you didn't vote this past November when SPLOST IV was the only item on the ballot.
Taxpayers agreed, likely without realizing it, to demolish a perfectly good, solid, well-built historic school with character and charm instead simply refurbishing it and saving us all the expense of higher taxes.
It will be torn down and a new one will go up right on top of the same spot and will house the exact same number of students: 600. We can only assume it will follow the trend of our other new schools, which means it will be replaced with a poorly constructed, inferior quality, overpriced cookie cutter version of an elementary school that will likely start to leak from the roof, grow mold and be closed down for good in a few short years.
Amid the construction chaos, kids will still be expected to attend school. They blow up half of the school and rebuild it while shoving everyone into the other half. When the first half is done, they shove everyone over there and repeat the process. And, when no one is paying attention, a cell tower will also go up, radiating the kids, teachers and surrounding community. Refer to the photos attached to this story to see exactly where the tower will go and how many are already nearby.
The most at risk are the people who live within a quarter mile of the tower as they have no way to escape the damage of being under constant background radiation that has been linked to damage to biological tissues and DNA and may even lead to incrased chances of certain forms of cancer. And, of course, the children stand the risk of constant headaches, dizzy spells, trouble sleeping, lack of concentration, poor memory, brain fog and hyperactivity which are commonly reported after a school gets a tower or sets up wi-fi.
The tower will bring contractors who have to constantly check the tower and make repairs at all hours of the day and night. It will invite copper thieves into the community and give them a handy place to park and hide out, too. School Board Member Paul Womack told a group of parents at a Briarlake meeting last September that this whole mess was intended to solve a communications problem over at Lakeside High School, which is the only school yet to have a signed agreement.
So, what do you think?
Is the Smoke Rise community doing the right thing by keeping quiet and not participating in the protest against the cell towers? Or, perhaps, are the residents still largely unaware of what's to come? How will they react when they find out about it? How will they react if they find out we all knew and didn't tell them about it?
Do you know anyone with a child at this charter elementary school? Do you know anyone who lives near it? Have you warned them about the T-mobile towers and the bad deal the school board has made to lease the property paid for by our tax dollars to a commercial enterprise seeking to make even more money off us and avoid their share of taxes?
Do they know they will get a chance to voice their opinion about cell towers (called telecommunications towers by those who don't want you to realize what they are talking about) on the July 31 ballot?
Don't you think you should tell them? Wouldn't you want someone to warn you if it were your child or your neighborhood? Let's work together for the sake of our entire county. We need to rise above political rivalry or whatever else might be getting in our way. There is still time to put a stop to them and we won't get another opportunity to even try for the next 30 years.
If you would like to learn more, please visit: www.GETtheCELLoutATL.org.
And please email CEO Burrell Ellis to lend your support for the county commissioners and their request to do their jobs. And, please sign the countywide petition at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/GTCO-ATL.
Register to Vote; Learn What's on the Ballot and Prepare to Vote on July 31!