A cell tower is set to be erected on the Sand Pine Elementary campus, generating revenue that could keep streaming to the Pasco County school district for as long as 30 years.
The Pasco County School Board approved a lease agreement with F&L Towers of Tampa on Tuesday evening, despite protests by a father who questioned whether enough is known about the potential health effects.
Bryan Hamilton, who has a 5-year-old at the Wesley Chapel school and a 2-year-old who will attend, said much of the research on cell towers appears to be inconclusive. As a result, he said, it’s hard to say what the long-term ramifications for children might be.
He likened the situation to asbestos, which was commonly used in construction decades ago until it was determined it could cause cancer or other health problems.
“We know what asbestos does now,” Hamilton said. “We know what lead does.”
But Christopher Erwin, another father who said he has 18 years of experience in the wireless industry, favored the cell tower contract and told the board the health concerns have been distorted.
“I’m not sure why we are worried about one cellphone tower when we need the coverage in the area,” Erwin said.
The 10-year agreement with F&L would put $16,000 into the school district’s pocketbook the first year.
That would grow by 4 percent each year.
If a second tenant is added to the tower, that annual rent increases by $9,500. A third tenant would bring in an extra $10,500 annually, and any additional tenants would bring in another $12,500 each.
The agreement includes four five-year options to extend the lease, so the lease could be in effect for 30 years.
Three schools in Pasco — Fivay High in Hudson, Sunlake High in Land O’ Lakes and Long Middle in Wesley Chapel — already have cell towers that produce revenue for the school district.
A cell tower also sits on district-owned property on Meadow Pointe Boulevard south of State Road 54, where a future middle school is planned. In addition, a cell tower lease agreement was previously approved for Gulf Trace Elementary in Holiday, but construction has not yet begun on that tower.
In Hillsborough County, plans for cell towers at schools have drawn heated opposition from parents, but public response has been more muted in Pasco.
A few parents did protest at Long Middle in 2009 during construction of that tower.