LITTLE SILVER - A group of parents is in fear for their children's health after a 95-foot cellular tower less than 500 feet from Markham Place Elementary School began operating Thursday.
Several dozen parents — who have formed a group called Little Silver Citizens Against Cell Tower — spoke at Thursday's Board of Education meeting hoping to get the board to join forces with them to get the tower moved 1,500 feet from the school or taken down.
"There have been board of educations that have petitioned, in other states like California, where they were successful in moving cell towers that were in the proximity of schools, so there is a little bit of precedent," said Jennifer Borenius, who has four children attending the elementary school.
In a letter sent to the Asbury Park Press, the group cited a study from the International Association for Research on Cancer that found "that radio frequency radiation, including the radiation spewing from cell towers, is a possible carcinogen."
"I moved to this town because of this school system. I am so disappointed. We don't need to find out 10 years from now that my one-year-old has a tumor," said Alicia Holmgren, mother of two children, one of which will be attending the elementary school in September.
The school board did not take a position at the meeting but assured the parents it would look into the issue.
"We're all parents. I have two kids in the system. If we find out there is a significant concern we will be right along side with you," said Board President Christian Smith.
During the meeting, the parents acknowledged cellphones are a fact of life, but according to the group, the borough council did not properly alert the public that a cellular tower was being constructed. The group said the council misled them to think a communication's tower to help their emergency management was being built.
The council passed an ordinance on Oct. 5, 2015, that permitted the municipality to lease a portion of borough property at 480 Prospect Ave. for the construction and maintenance of a "cellular antenna tower and associated equipment." The minutes of that council meeting show there were no public comments made about adopting the ordinance.
Verizon won the bid for the lease after the ordinance was passed.
During a Feb. 26, 2016, Planning Board meeting, Verizon's attorney Warren Stillwell said the wireless company originally applied for a small cell site at another location in town but was asked by the borough to construct one on borough property in order to combine their emergency management needs.
Police Chief Daniel Shaffery spoke of the need for the tower to solve dead spots in their emergency communications.
According to the planning board minutes, Verizon's attorney submitted a report that the facility met FCC requirements for radio frequency transmission and posed no health problems.
The planning board approved the project during the Feb. 26 meeting, according to the minutes, which show no public comments.
In Mayor Robert Neff's March 2017 newsletter published on the borough website and mailed to residents, he informed the public that pre-construction meetings started for a 95-foot communications tower behind Borough Hall.
"The objections have been made extremely clear to the governing body," said Neff in an email to the Press Friday. "We are exploring every possible option."
The council has scheduled a public information forum on June 12 at Borough Hall to discuss the tower.