By Rosemary K. Otzman
AT&T has requested leasing a 10,000 square foot piece of property at Haggerty School to put up a 130’ cell tower and surround it with a six-foot cyclone fence with barbed wire.
This would be in the grass southwest of the parents’ parking lot near Haggerty Road, said James Williams, the district’s director of building and grounds, in explaining the offer to the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education at its work/study session on Monday.
Although there are no votes at work/study sessions, the board showed no interest in pursuing the offer.
AT&T offered to pay $750 a month ($9,000 a year) for five years and then up it by 7.5% for the next five years and increase it again each five years for a 25-year total lease.
He said it would be a mono tower, with things on the top. A flagpole tower has a lower lease rate but is more aesthetically pleasing, he said.
The tower would be near the Woodbury Green residential community next to the school.
“I asked about radiation and they said there is no proven evidence of radiation,” Williams said.
School Supt. Michael Van Tassel said his cabinet discussed the offer and thought the money was not enough and that the board should not move forward.
“Most schools are doing this when it’s far back, away from the road,” he said.
Board vice president Martha Toth suggested AT&T might like to find an unused corner in the nearby Metropark to use.
“We don’t really know what towers do or don’t do,” Supt. Van Tassel said, adding he had concerns about the health of the children at the school and with being a good neighbor.
He said the Woodbury Green complex doesn’t have very good cell reception.
The board informally agreed not to pursue the offer.
In other discussions at Monday’s meeting, the board:
• Heard Curriculum Director Diane Kullis present the North Central Accreditation Progress Report prepared for the AdvancED Quality Assurance Review, which is due to the state on May 1. She explained that in 2012, the state found five required actions for VBPS and this is the required report to give them to show the district is in compliance. The report will be reviewed by the state, then go to the national, and then come back to say “we’re good to go or have things to do,” she said. She said the district has done a lot in the last two years, which she has recorded in the report;
• Heard an update on the Human Resources Department, with Director Shonta Langford-Green outlining 11 areas of HR she is working on, including: staffing assignments by the end of May, open enrollment in May, Benefit Fair from 3-5 p.m. on May 20 at the Belleville High School Commons with lots of incentives, negotiations for all units as part of the salary reopeners, paraprofessional bidding, staff evaluations, monthly employee contests, finally completing the auditing of personnel files, and the Affordable Care Act, a big project, which includes all the taxes added to the district, which amounts to 4-6%;
• Heard Financial Director Karen Moffitt explain the complexities of special education funding. She said the district spends a total of $4.4 million on special education and $1.1 million of that is not reimbursed. Van Tassel said the rule of thumb is that two-thirds of what it costs is reimbursed. “It is rule after rule, layer after layer,” Van Tassel said of special education funding. He said it’s difficult to do projects because of the uncertainty of the funding, but he is “pleased with our budget office for the work over the last two and a half years”;
• In response to a question from the Independent, heard Williams report that the work is being completed to cablecast the school board meetings and the cablecasts may be up and running for the May 12 meeting. Van Tassel said the meetings will be broadcast live and replayed; and
• Heard BHS Principal Abdul Madyun report he went to Keystone Charter Academy, which teaches students through eighth grade, and got 32 students signed up for BHS next fall. He said he is going to other charter schools as well to show that BHS is an option.
After the meeting, the board and audience members took a tour of the Einstein Room, a Student Center, and a Presentation Room at BHS. The special rooms have recently been completed and will be open to students next school year.
By Rosemary K. Otzman