A proposal is in the preliminary stages for wireless carrier T-Mobile to build a cell tower on ’s property. In exchange for placing the tower on school property, the DeKalb County School System would receive an as yet undisclosed amount of monetary compensation. T-Mobile has selected four possible sites for the tower and presented their plans to the public yesterday.
Shawn Blassingill, senior development manager for T-Mobile’s Atlanta division, said engineers find areas that might need a tower using various factors, including customer feedback and network performance data. Teams then visit the area and begin to look for possible tower sites.
T-Mobile first attempts to use existing structures for towers—66 percent of cell towers are built on existing infrastructure—but if those cannot be used, tall structures like parking decks and buildings are next for study. If those are unavailable, the company begins to look at private property sites.
Blassingill said that DeKalb County has very strict rules against building telecommunications structures in places zoned for residential use. This is why T-Mobile began to look at schools for locations.
After possible sites were identified, T-Mobile picked four potential locations and flew a balloon through them to photograph the areas. They then produced mock-up images of what the cell tower would look like in each of them. The potential tower is the monopine variety, the kind that resembles a pine tree.
The plan has already been proposed to the county's board of education and Lakeside Principal Joe Reed. Reed shared a story about a student who recently had a seizure outside the school in an area lacking in wireless signal strength. To call for help, Reed had to run back into the school building and use a landline phone. Another school-specific concern is that none of Lakeside’s athletic fields have lighting, so Reed wanted to know if T-Mobile could integrate lighting into a potential tower, which they can.
Leaflets distributed at the event explained that property values are not adversely affected by the construction of a cell tower. In fact, real estate agents often use wireless signal strength as a factor in presenting homes to prospective buyers.
Another possible concern is about the issue of electromagnetic and radio frequency emissions from a tower.
“We operate these facilities well below any [electromagnetic emission] guidelines,” said Paul Hajek, senior manager of radio frequency design engineering for T-Mobile. He added that the Federal Communications Commission has very strict standards regarding radio frequency emissions and that T-Mobile towers operate within them.
A tower emits about 0.1 microwatts per square centimeter of radio waves. By comparison, a wireless router emits 0.13 microwatts per square centimeter, a cordless phone emits 15 microwatts per square centimeter and a police radio emits 250 microwatts per square centimeter. This low amount is because of the tower’s height. Blassingill also said towers are monitored around the clock for possible spikes in emissions and that T-Mobile conducts emission studies before and after towers are built.
Plans for a tower are not yet finalized because T-Mobile still needs to discuss logistics with the school and the school board. Meetings at other schools will be held over the coming days, all beginning at 6pm:
Brockett Elementary, Flat Rock Elementary and Jolly Elementary on May 4.
Margaret Harris Center, Princeton Elementary and Smoke Rise Elementary on May 10.
Narvie J. Harris Elementary, Meadowview Elementary and on May 11.
Blassingill encouraged residents to contact him at 678-612-7489 or email@example.com with questions, comments or concerns.