A proposed monopine cell tower at Mammoth Lakes Fire Station #2 will not go forward.
At the Wednesday, Sept. 25 meeting of the Mammoth Lakes Fire Protection District Board of Commissioners meeting, the tower, which had been proposed by AT&T to improve customer cell phone service in the area, was unanimously voted down by commissioners.
AT&T had been looking for a cell tower site due to complaints from its customers about dropped calls in the area around Station #2, which sits on Old Mammoth Rd. across the street from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on one side and Snowcreek Athletic Club on the other.
AT&T had exhausted several other options prior to coming to MLFD, including the roof of Snowcreek Athletic Club, but was denied access elsewhere as well.
A major concern for residents who came out against the cell tower location was the fear of potential health impacts that could occur from living in close proximity to a tower. Station #2 is situated near a densely populated residential area in Mammoth. Residents were also concerned about the effect the tower would have on property values.
“There are many misperceptions about cell sites and radio waves,” said John Morritt, a representative of AT&T. “There are hundreds of radio waves out there all the time [not related to cell towers].”
He claimed that the directional antenna AT&T would use was a more focused type of antenna, which didn’t scatter radio waves as far and wide as other types of antennae.
Resident Matt Weinberg pointed out that his brother-in-law had experienced insomnia and difficulty performing simple calculations after sleeping under a cell tower for ten years.
“So are you saying my brother-in-law was making those symptoms up?” Weinberg asked.
Cindy Sage, a Snowcreek IV homeowner as well as owner of Sage Associates, which performs technical consulting work on cell sites felt “this is the wrong proposal for this site on a number of levels.” She also pointed out that the World Health Organization had deemed cell phones, carcinogens.
Independent third party contractor, Neil Olij of Hammett and Edison, the company that was hired by AT&T to measure the RF (radio frequency) emission levels at the site, pointed out that carcinogens were coming from cell phones, not the towers.
Morritt also pointed out, “There are no statistics to tell us if property values are affected either way.”
Putting a stop to prolonged arguments back and forth, Commissioner Brent Peterson cut in and commented, “None of my constituents want this in our front yard,” he said. “We don’t need to be a steward of this.”
Even with an incentive of a monthly payment to lease the land, the Commission was not swayed to approve the project.
“$1,500 a month is chicken feed for our budget,” Commissioner Jeff Boucher had said at last month’s meeting where the project was initially discussed.
“What we really have to determine is whether it’s worth it in cell service to the area,” Fire Chief Brent Harper had stated last month as well. “It’s more about public service than our budget.”
Peterson made a motion to deny the project, which was seconded and then unanimously approved by the Board.