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LAGUNA BEACH | Community News Focus

Elementary School May Be Rid of Phone Tower by 1998

November 09, 1996|KIMBERLY BROWER

A tentative agreement has been reached between AirTouch Cellular and the Laguna Beach Unified School District to remove a cellular telephone transmission tower from the grounds of El Morro Elementary School, officials said Friday.

At Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, where the district filed a lawsuit more than 14 months ago to have the antenna removed, more than 50 parents, many pushing baby strollers and carrying placards, marched Friday to show support for district officials.

After a long day of negotiations, Jackson Parham, acting school superintendent, said, "There is an agreement reached that all of us will recommend to our parties."

Under the proposal, AirTouch would look for two possible sites in Laguna Beach to relocate the tower. The company would then remove the structure from El Morro by Sept. 1, 1998.

In return, the district would forgo the $18,556 a year in rent that AirTouch now pays to the district to help defray the company's cost to move the tower.

The two sides hope to start work immediately on details of the pact and present it to the school board no later than Dec. 10, AirTouch Cellular attorney Scott Johnson said.

In October 1992, the school district signed a 10-year contract with PacTel Cellular, now AirTouch, agreeing to lease the school property to the company for a 90-foot tower.

But the next year, residents organized a group called Parents for the Elimination of the Schoolyard Tower, or PEST, to lobby for its removal, arguing that it poses a health hazard. The school district subsequently sued to terminate its agreement with the company.

Group member David Carroll, whose son attends El Morro, said Friday's pact is "not one the PEST group is overjoyed about, but the best one . . . under the circumstances."

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