Several months after a controversy over the placement of a wireless data transmission device on top of Maple Hill School, Clearwire has reportedly backed down.
According to borough Attn. Warren Hess III, Clearwire said they intend not to go forward on the Maple Hill project.
Late last year, the borough approved a contract with Clearwire allowing the company to install the device atop the school’s roof.
A clause in the contract stated it was subject to the Board of Education’s approval, an approval Clearwire never solicited.
The board discussed the issue at a meeting in December, but didn’t take any action on it.
“They never approached us,” school board Chair Kathleen Donovan said.
Hess recently sent a letter to Clearwire requesting to set up a meeting to discuss the contract, but the company declined, saying they did not plan to continue with the project, he said.
At the December meeting, parents voiced their concerns about possible negative effects the device could have on their children’s health.
“There was a lot of public concern about it so I guess that will ease the public’s fear,” Donovan said.
Concerned parents were ecstatic to hear the news that Clearwire has backed off.
“I think that this is amazing. …They came to their senses and decided to not test out our children,” said Dawn Postolowski, who has children at Maple Hill.
She said she had been wondering if there would be another meeting after a long silence from Clearwire.
“I’ve been dreading having to go back to another meeting … and trying to get somebody to listen to us parents,” Postolowski said. “I guess somebody decided it was a bad idea.”
Postolowski felt there are plenty of other places for such devices in Naugatuck since it’s a hilly town.
“I think that schools are not the place for those things,” she said.
Jennifer Ross, a parent of a child at Maple Hill who spoke out against the project earlier, said she was also happy with the news.
“Firstly, I’m relieved and I’m pleased that they won’t be proceeding with placing a tower there,” Ross said.
She said she hopes the Zoning Commission will learn something from the reaction that this proposal caused among the parents. Ross thought they should notify not just people surrounding projects, but the people who spend the majority of their time in the buildings.
“I would hope they would take that into consideration and add that to their process,” Ross said.
The issue has raised an interesting question in the borough, one Mayor Bob Mezzo felt should be vetted out.
Mezzo said the community needs to engage in a debate over the future of new technologies in Naugatuck.
“I’m still not convinced of some of the claims in regards to health and safety,” Mezzo said, about the cancelled project.
Mezzo pointed to the wind turbine issue in Prospect. Most people think green energy is a good thing, but it has created a lot of controversy, Mezzo said.
“At what point do we want to protect ourselves from any and all harms both known and more importantly unknown when we start to debate whether or not we want to encourage certain new technologies to locate in the borough,” Mezzo asked.
He said, from what he’s heard, there have been similar debates on previous boards, and they found that the potential harm was not significant enough to forgo the revenue opportunities projects like cell phone towers would create.
Even though he’s not personally convinced that the communications device at Maple Hill would have caused any harm, Mezzo said he recognized that this was a significant issue to his fellow parents and he took their concerns very seriously.
He said he wanted to engage the company in a dialogue, but their correspondence was limited.
Clearwire did not indicate to Hess whether they still planned to move forward with the other communications boxes they planned in Naugatuck. Mezzo was also unaware of the company’s intentions regarding the other potential sites.
Clearwire did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment as of press time.