After impassioned plea, Bow residents vote to allow land lease for cell tower

  • Bow Selectman Christopher Nicolopoulos clarifies an article addressing the possible leasing of town-owned land, leading to the construction of a cell tower. Josh Morrill—Josh Morrill/Monitor Staff

  • Bow High School students enter on Monday, August 30, 2021 for the first day of school. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 3/10/2022 6:01:11 PM

On August 3, Jennifer Borr watched her 21-year-old son collapse in front of her.

She frantically tried to dial 911, but the call wouldn’t go through for several minutes. She tried again and again as call after call dropped. Once paramedics were notified, they were unable to figure out where Borr lived, but by the time they arrived, it was too late.

After 45 minutes of watching her son suffer, he passed away.

In the midst of Bow’s annual town meeting Wednesday night, Borr stood in front of hundreds of her neighbors to tell her story in the midst of the most contentious debate of the night. It was sparked by a warrant article, eventually approved, that gives the select board the ability to negotiate a lease with a cell phone provider to put a tower on a large plot of land on Branch Londonderry Turnpike that would last “no longer than 30 years.” An eventual cell tower at the location would give Bow residents better cell phone service in town.

“When we talk about radiation, and when we talk about all these things, there’s a real present risk that I think far outweighs that,” Borr said. “I think it’s a real problem that we don’t have cell service ... we are that family that that happened to. So I want people to think about that.”

Lack of reliable cell phone service has long been a complaint in Bow, especially within the schools, but until this year opposition prevailed. A very similar article was voted down at last year’s meeting after more information was requested by residents. This year, questions centered around radiation transmission and overall health concerns relating to the tower.

Bow resident Tina Doucette has worked for communications companies for 25 years, and after offering her condolences to Borr, she emphasized that the radiation from the tower would cause real effects to those living around it, citing multiple studies.

“There is a reason why the information is not easy to find. It’s because it’s a multi-billion dollar company,” Doucette said. “They are not going to make it easy to find. And there’s countless studies that show that it does cause cancer, and information is there.”

Multiple residents echoed Doucette’s sentiments, as they brought up a recent cease and desist order given to Verizon over health issues stemming from a cell tower in Pittsfield, Mass.

The Federal Communications Commission regulates cell towers and they must comply with the radiation exposure guidelines. The American Cancer Society states, “at this time, there’s no strong evidence that exposure to RF waves from cell phone towers causes any noticeable health effects. However, this does not mean that the RF waves from cell phone towers have been proven to be absolutely safe.”

Others brought up safety concerns for students at the town’s three schools.

“God forbid there was ever a lockdown in one of the schools, nobody’s calling out on the cell phone, nobody’s calling for help because cell phones don’t work,” Select Board Vice Chairman Bruce Marshall said.

At the conclusion of the lengthy debate, the article was approved by a wide margin, and the select board will now meet with the Planning Board to discuss the details of the height, positioning and overall construction of the tower. FirstNet, owned by AT&T, has already given a commitment to transmit their signal from the tower.

Nearly all other warrant articles passed unanimously, with very few causing a tax impact for the upcoming fiscal year.

The purchasing of multiple town vehicles, including a one-ton dump truck, as well as health and safety equipment for the Police and Fire Departments will be appropriated via their respective capital reserve funds was approved. The Municipal Building’s main floor will also undergo a $105,000 renovation after approval Wednesday night.

Another article would impose a $5 tax on each registered vehicle in Bow, which would go into a newly created Municipal and Regional Transportation Improvement Capital Reserve Fund. This fund would help the Department of Public Works maintain the town’s roadways, as they’ve had to cut aspects of their funding in the budget in recent years.

Lisa Cohen, a nearly 30-year resident of Bow, aimed her frustrations with the proposal towards the Selectman.

“I give you guys enough tax money,” she said. “I’ve love Bow, I really do. But please stop.”

After a 113-71 ballot vote in favor of the article, the tax will be implemented going forward.

All-terrain vehicles, antique motor vehicles, and motorcycles are exempt from the $5 charge. This will raise approximately $80,000 per year into the new fund, according to Selectman Michael Wayne.




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