By Brittany Polito Thu, April 7, 2022 | Original article here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — More than two months after voting to issue a cease-and-desist order on the Verizon cell tower at 877 South St., the Board of Health has decided to act on it. That’s if the mayor agrees.
This vote was conditioned on the order being withdrawn without prejudice if the board is unable to retain legal counsel prior to any administrative or judicial proceeding. The order will be sent out by Fri Apr 8 and Verizon will have one week to respond. The board will meet with Mayor Linda Tyer on April 13 to request the funds needed for legal counsel.
Because it would be city monies, the allocation would also have to be approved by the City Council.
“It’s been a really complicated process,” Chair Bobbie Orsi said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Orsi and member Brad Gordon debated on whether to send the order without first securing funds and a contracted attorney or to take a leap of faith and figure things out as they go along.
This decision was a compromise between the two arguments.
Orsi believes that it is the board’s obligation to protect the health of residents before worrying about finances and legality.
“I think that our authority is not any of the other things except to say, ‘Do we have a problem in this neighborhood, yes or no?’ And that’s what we’re saying, we think we have a problem in this neighborhood,” she said.
“And so I know it’s an uncomfortable situation to be in because I feel like we have a responsibility and at every point, our hands have been tied, it’s been six weeks since we decided that we were going to issue the order, it took quite a few weeks to actually find a couple of attorneys who would even help us to get this order on paper, we have a really good order on paper, those attorneys are willing to represent us for whatever would happen and at any point, we can say ‘stop.'”
Gordon felt like the board would not be prepared to do its best job with the order if they didn’t have a solid backing of legal counsel. As an attorney, he found it reckless to go forward without obtaining the money from the city to pay an attorney. For the record, he noted that the board has already agreed on the cease-and-desist order and that it is not in question.
“We will be doing a tremendous disservice to those that are most aggrieved if we do not have a counsel, a plan to implement the cease-and-desist order, revenue to support legal counsel that we’re talking about, and because this could be a pretty arduous process, it’s novel, I’m going to be hyperbolic to say that it even possibly end up in Supreme Court,” he said.
“So my thought has always been that we can’t just put it out there and hope for the best, we have to make sure that we are well-positioned because otherwise, we’re not going get multiple bites of the apple, we get one bite of the apple probably and then if we fail, it will be a pretty colossal failure first and foremost for the people that are aggrieved but also for the community as a whole, both in terms of what it could mean for the community if there already similar issues.
“Fiscally, because there are provisions within the nuisance statute that we cite, that empowers us to issue a cease and desist and if we were to lose in court, that the other party can look to recover damages in costs, which I have no idea what those are, I don’t know what the monthly revenue is on the tower, I know none those things and these are all the kinds of things we should know that are part of our due diligence to move this forward.”
Since the tower’s erection in August 2020, Alma Street resident Courtney Gilardi and her daughter have spoken during open microphone about negative health effects they say are from electromagnetic fields (EMF) generated by the antennas on the 115-foot pole.
Gilardi says her family has had to leave their home and has provided documentation from a physician to the board.
Other residents have joined her protests and they filled the room during Wednesday’s meeting.
“For over 18 months, we’ve had to publicly come before you and share our personal symptoms, my seven-page health report gets passed around the table with details of my health history in public, people have had to move, people are ignored,” Gilardi said.
“We can provide you with letters and testimony but not everyone wants to turn up here as I do and share publicly and disclose because that’s a hard thing to do and it’s a hard thing to do to be ridiculed.”
Without specifying the source, she added that her neighborhood was called “collateral damage” and a “waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”
Her daughter Amelia said she has lost her health, childhood, and mother to EMF because Gilardi devotes most of her time to the cause and getting her family back in their home.
In early February, the board voted to send Verizon a cease-and-desist order to remove its cell tower at 877 South St.
It was to be held in abeyance for seven days and if the wireless provider did not agree to have a meeting with the board and demonstrate a desire to cooperate to the board’s satisfaction, it would go into effect.
Later that month, an executive session was held to discuss the process and in March, the board spoke to an attorney during an executive session.
Based on that conversation, the order was updated and an attempt was made to line up some financials. The recommendation was to plan for every possible scenario to see if the board can get a budget around it and go to the city council.
Orsi said they couldn’t go to the council before a meeting with Tyer, which she described as being “very difficult” to obtain. The board has set a tentative meeting date of April 20 to reconvene on the situation.