MILESTONE BACKS OUT OF CELL TOWERS AT ELEANOR ROOSEVELT HS, ACCOKEEK ACADEMY AFTER PRESSURE

ERHS_SignGREENBELT – Milestone Communications has backed out of two contentious cell phone tower proposals on school sites in Prince George’s County after fierce opposition from residents.

While there was opposition, it was not just the voices of residents that forced the company to withdraw both applications, but guidelines, rules and regulations that ultimately will prevent Milestone from moving forward with the two proposed sites on Prince George’s County Public Schools’ (PGCPS) land.

“Milestone has withdrawn its application for Accokeek due to the school’s conversion to a K-8. PGCPS policies do not permit telecommunications facilities on elementary school sites,” said Raven Hill, a school system spokesperson.

In the case of the proposed tower at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, issues of transparency and due notice have arisen continuously throughout the process, noted Lupi Quinteros-Grady, the school board member who represents the area.

“The process followed by Milestone Communications has shown a lack of respect for community engagement and a complete dismissal of community concerns. The very location of one meeting showed a clear insensitivity to the community’s views,” Quinteros-Grady wrote in a letter to the chief executive officer (CEO) of PGCPS, encouraging him to reject the tower’s application.

“Milestone’s decision to host a meeting outside of the high school and city of Greenbelt limited local participation by design. There was no prior notification to me or the board of education, which prohibited my own participation since the meeting was scheduled the same night as a board meeting.”

Quinteros-Grady also received more than 40 emails with complaints from residents of her district that were vehemently opposed to the tower proposal, as well as from teachers at the high school.

“The frustrations on my end were the transparency around and how things were being done and communicated,” she said, explaining that even as a board member she had difficulty getting answers and planning meetings with Milestone. “And that was what I was communicating in reaching out to the administration.”

However, the board member noted that the board of education cannot vote on proposed tower sites due to the contract PGCPS signed with Milestone that predates most of the board members and the current school administration.

Greenbelt residents showed up in force to a meeting, held outside city limits, about the tower and spent nearly two hours accosting Milestone staff, claiming that the company did not care about black lives or human health.

One of those residents was Dasan Bobo, who said he opposed the tower, which would have been built less than 300 feet from his home, because of the possible health concerns associated with the type of radiation the cellphone tower emits.

“It’s unacceptable,” he said after the meeting in late April, explaining that he would not subject his family to the health hazards a tower brings. “They’re literally pushing me off my land and forcing me to go somewhere else.”

Quinteros-Grady’s letter, in addition to numerous complaints from residents, convinced the school’s CEO Kevin Maxwell to send a letter to Milestone Communications echoing the boardmember’s complaints and opposing the tower.

Milestone Communications did not answer numerous calls to their office and did not return requests for comment.

For Mary Goldsmith, an Accokeek resident, the news of the tower not moving forward at Accokeek Academy brought relief. She said she opposed the proposal from the beginning because she felt the tower would be a violation of safety.

“Although there are no known issues, why should we be willing to take a risk, especially on the grounds of the schools that are supposed to educate and protect our children in our absence,” she said. “Secondly, the health concerns have mixed reports, however, if there is any chance that any amount or any form of radiation is given off, there should be more than enough reason to back off. “

Goldsmith continues to question the contract that PGCPS has with Milestone to allow cell phone towers on certain school properties and the message she believes that contract sends to students.

She said she feels the school system is putting “dollar signs” before the health and wellness of students.

“Aren’t our children and their futures bright enough and worth more than dollar signs,” she asked.

Still, Goldsmith heralded the withdrawn proposals as a victory for residents, though she believes it is just the starting point for Prince George’s County.

“I think it really starts an open dialogue on what the residents find important. It shows our elected officials that you represent us, and when you go against that, you are not fulfilling your obligations and oath,” she said. “I and many are definitely not going to let this fire burn out. There are several issues facing our communities and we intend to lessen and stop the blows, especially for our youth and elders. I am excited about this victory; however, I am very realistic that this is far from the end. I know this is only the beginning, for this and similar obstacles.”

Bobo and other Greenbelt residents shared a similar message when they came out to the May 11 board of education meeting. They voiced thanks for Quinteros-Grady and Maxwell’s letters, saying they are glad the tower is not moving forward, but they also brought a new message with them: residents want to see this contract with Milestone rescinded.

“I call for the cancellation of this contract that has no place in our community and education system,” Bobo said. “Thanks again for the actions you have taken thus far, but I want to challenge you to go further and reanalyze the need for this no-bid contract with Milestone Communications.”

Goldsmith shared similar views.

“Without a doubt I feel that this decision from the beginning was unethical and money driven, so it should be eliminated and reversed for those schools already impacted,” she said.

And Quinteros-Grady said the board is listening to those ideas.

“I think that there is an interest there to explore the conversation and I don’t think that this is going to go away,” she said. “I think transparency is really what matters, too.”

Via Sentinel

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Health Effects
The microwaves from cell phone towers can interfere with your body’s own EMFs, causing a variety of potential health problems, including:
Headaches
Memory loss
Cardiovascular stress
Low sperm count
Birth defects
Cancer >>> Read more

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DuVal High school parents voice their concerns during a meeting in PGCPS

DuVal High school parents voice their concerns during a meeting about issues involving students;C_5ws-ZUIAEqw3n

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PGCPS board members working on plan to address spike in reported misconduct cases

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Prince George’s school board members working on plan to address spike in reported misconduct cases

– Some Prince George’s County school board members are meeting with employee union leaders to create a plan on how to address the huge number of staff members accused of abuse and misconduct.

FOX 5 uncovered there have been nearly 800 cases of abuse and misconduct so far this school year after new policies and procedures were put in place to address major cases of child abuse. In the majority of cases, staff members are put on administrative leave. Some feel it has reached a breaking point with so many teachers pulled from their classrooms, sometimes for months.

“It’s definitely an overreaction when we have hundreds of innocent people we have placed out on administrative leave,” said school board member Ed Burroughs. “And I’m not confident they are all going to come back to Prince George’s County Schools.”

He and board member Raaheela Ahmed said they met this week with union representatives.

“It was productive, and I feel like those are the types of collaborations and conversations we need to have to address this massive issue,” said Ahmed. “Because it is a massive issue that is affecting not only those teachers, those professionals, those staff members that are out of our schools right now, but the students that work with them.”

“There needs to be a plan,” said Burroughs. “Currently, the superintendent doesn’t have a plan to fix this for next year.”

Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell answered questions about the issue for the first time Thursday. He said he is looking at “adjustments” to current practices and procedures, but did not provide specifics.

“The standards for how we conduct ourselves professionally will not change,” Maxwell said.

He said that he has heard plenty of praise despite his critics.

“I’ll tell you that I get just as many or more people coming up and saying, ‘Thanks for what you’re doing. Thanks for keeping our children safe,’” Maxwell said.

He said there are 128 teachers currently on leave.

FOX 5 has spoken to multiple staff members about the issue.

“I think it’s a situation where people are trying to do the right thing, but doing it in a very poor way,” one teacher said.

She said students are being hurt because their teachers are out, and substitutes and remaining staff have too much to handle.

“(Students) are getting pushed to the next grade level and they may have gone six or ten months without a reading teacher or a math teacher. This is really serious lack of education,” she said.

She and other teachers FOX 5 spoke to said staff members are fearful to have any type of physical contact with students, even if a child needs help. She said she was called by students into a class to help break up an altercation.

“The teacher was standing there separate from them saying, ‘Please stop, please stop, please stop,’” she said. “And the one student just had the other student by the neck. And so I stepped in, and I removed her hands from the child’s neck. And the teacher came to me later and she said, ‘Well, what are we supposed to do in that situation? I thought we’re not supposed to touch the kids?’ And for me, I’m willing to lose my job to make sure that a kid doesn’t get hurt.”

A former D.C. police officer who was a longtime substitute was among those accused of abuse and then cleared. Melody Rich-Neal said she won’t return to the school district because she can’t risk being accused again.

“You walk in with a clear record, and then you walk out fighting for your life,” Rich-Neal said.

She and other Prince George’s County Public Schools staff members tell FOX 5 that some students are fully aware they can get rid of staff they don’t like, at least temporarily.

“They know. ‘Oh shoot, all I got to do is say this and she’ll be gone.’ And they’re right,” she said.

Via Fox 5

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Born and raised in Bowie, Md., Raheela Ahmed (seen), said they met this week with union representatives.
“It was productive, and I feel like those are the types of collaborations and conversations we need to have to address this massive issue,” said Ahmed. “Because it is a massive issue that is affecting not only those teachers, those professionals, those staff members that are out of our schools right now, but the students that work with them.”

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“There needs to be a plan,” said Board member Edwards Burroughs (Seen here). “Currently, the superintendent doesn’t have a plan to fix this for next year.” (See Edwards Burroughs interview here on Fox5)

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EXCLUSIVE: PGCPS CEO responds to 788 abuse and misconduct cases in district

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– For the first time, the head of Prince George’s County Public Schools is talking about the hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and misconduct by school staff.

FOX 5 was first to uncover that there have been nearly 800 abuse and misconduct cases so far this school year. Some staff members say new policies put in place after high-profile abuse cases are an overreaction and good teachers are being unnecessarily pulled from their classrooms – sometimes for months while under investigation.

For more than a month, FOX 5 has made repeated requests for an interview with Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell. On Thursday, we caught up with him at a school board meeting for an unscheduled interview.

“I’m not going to say that we don’t have some over reporting that is going on,” Maxwell said. “But I think you have to take that in the context of we have had some very serious things done to our children and they are absolutely unacceptable and we will never, ever tell our employees not to report things that they think are child abuse.”

We asked Maxwell if he thought current policies on abuse were strong.

“I think the board policies are fine,” Maxwell said. “I think we need to make some adjustments and some of our procedures that we are operating under and make clear. We have made some adjustments in our practices.”

“Are we going to see a repeat of this next year?” Watts asked.

“Absolutely not,” Maxwell replied. “We are already not seeing a repeat of what we saw at the beginning of the year or at the end of last year. We are already much improved.”

FOX 5 opened records requests in March and again in April that showed abuse and misconduct cases jumped from 636 to 788.

“When you want to mix apples and oranges and you want to throw in the conduct in those kinds of things as opposed to abuse, we have to be careful which category we are talking about,” Maxwell said. “Are we saying that we should just ignore misconduct? I don’t think we want to go there. I think we want to make sure that we keep our children safe and do what we think is appropriate and expect our people to be professional in that.”

When Maxwell was pressed on the issue, he attempted to end the interview with us. We then asked why there would be any change next year if procedures and reporting standards remained the same.

“The standards for how we conduct ourselves professionally will not change,” he said. “If someone believes, if you believe that a child has been abused, you should report that to child protective services. We are mandatory reporters under state law. I will never tell an employee in Prince George’s County that if they believe a child has been abused, that they should not report that, and so that standard will be there because it is the law.”

He also said, “I have already that our numbers are down and they will continue to go down.”

Maxwell then walked away from our cameras.

Teachers told FOX 5 it is now to the point that if they a touch a child for any reason, they run the risk of being put on leave, and that students know they can make up allegations to get rid of teachers. In a majority of these cases, the accused staff members are sent home on paid leave. The head of the teachers union brought up the issue at Thursday’s board meeting.

“The morale is low,” said Theresa Dudley, president of Prince Georges County Educators’ Association. “When teachers can leave here for surrounding jurisdiction where they don’t fear for their job for an accusation that is not true.”

Dr. Maxwell had this to say about low staff morale.

“I have heard a little bit about morale, but I can tell you I have been a lot of different places, and you heard me talk about a few of them in the board meeting tonight,” he said. “And I will tell you that just as many people are coming up and saying, ‘I like what you’re doing. Thanks for keeping our children safe.'”

He said it is unclear if the number of teachers who have been put on leave is impacting students, emphasizing that there are 128 teachers currently on leave. The majority of those accused over the course school year have been returned to work.

“We are not seeing big declines in our (student) promotion rates, we are not seeing big declines in pass rates,” Maxwell said.

FOX 5 will continue to follow this story. You can reach reporter Lindsay Watts at lindsay.watts@foxtv.com

Via Fox 5 

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Cell towers could be built at dozens of PGCPS System – Schools

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GREENBELT, MD (WUSA9) – A cell phone tower developer is backing away from a proposal to put a tower at Greenbelt’s Eleanor Roosevelt High School. The decision comes as scrutiny is mounting over the company’s confidential lease with the Board of Education that allows tower development at 73 of the county’s 208 schools.

Milestone Communications has told Prince George’s County Public School’s CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell that it will withdraw its application to put a tower at Eleanor Roosevelt H.S. Maxwell criticized the company saying it has “not met our desired standards for transparency, communication and community engagement.” Maxwell made his comments in a letter to Board of Education member Lupi Quinteros-Grady, who opposed tower development at Roosevelt.

Even so, the school system in 2016 renewed a lease with Milestone that gives the company rights to develop as many as two towers at dozens of county schools. At least six schools are already cell tower sites. One clause in the lease said the terms must be kept confidential.

In exchange for the rights to construct towers and rent space to network providers like T-Mobile and Verizon, Milestone agreed to give the school system 40 percent of gross revenue, according to the lease, which lists the 73 schools in a rider to the agreement.

“People are really waking up to what this master leasing agreement means,” said Theordora Scarato, a Greenbelt community activist and blogger.

Scarato has documented the history of the school system’s dealings with Milestone on her blog, No Cell Tower At PGCPS Schools. She uncovered the controversial lease through Freedom of Information Act requests to the school system.

Scarato said the cell phone tower deal with Milestone Communications did not include any other bidders.

Milestone Communications specializes in revenue sharing with school systems and other institutional property holders in order to develop cell tower sites, according to its website.

During an April 24th community meeting with Greenbelt residents opposed to the Eleanor Roosevelt tower proposal, a Milestone representative was shouted down after saying “some of you would never be happy; I’m sorry about that.”

Some opponents of the towers fear possible long-term health effects from exposure to radio frequency radiation emitted by tower sites despite an American Cancer Society report which finds little risk. Others object to the appearance of the towers.

Via WUSA 9

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Theordora Scarato, a Greenbelt community activist and blogger. Scarato has documented the history of the school system’s dealings with Milestone on her blog, No Cell Tower At PGCPS Schools. She uncovered the controversial lease through Freedom of Information Act requests to the school system.

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I-Team investigation reveals the pricey perks of local official – Rushern Baker III Leads the Region.

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With Corruption very high and driven by white collar violations in the Prince George’s county and elsewhere in Maryland, at $210,000 a year, County Executive Rushern Baker III earns the title of being the highest paid local elected official. Baker makes more running Prince George’s County than Governor Larry Hogan makes running the entire state of Maryland, at $165,000. Baker also makes more than Maryland’s U.S. Senators and Congressmen who make $174,000, respectively.

Chauffeurs? Body guards? Giant salaries? Those pricey perks sound like something that belong to a celebrity… but they’re not.

The I-Team analyzed the benefit packages of elected officials from the 11 largest local jurisdictions – what they make and what they get.

“To the average citizen, this kind of difference in compensation just seems a little irrational,” Pete Sepp, the president of the National Taxpayers Union said.

Beyond salaries, DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, and again, Rushern Baker, get a security detail. But if you cross the Potomac, in Virginia, the I-Team couldn’t find one local politician who got an armed guard.

When it comes to drivers, the Potomac River is again the dividing line. Bowser, Leggett and Baker all get a chauffeur, while lawmakers in Virginia drive themselves.

We asked Fairfax County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova if she’s at all jealous about the pricey perks her counterparts over the river are receiving.

“No. I love my job. I don’t do it for the many; or the perks,” she told us.

Bulova, who drives herself in her own car, says her biggest perk is having a parking space at the government center.

Upon investigating, the I-Team found it’s not just the top elected officials getting the perks. Prince George’s County Council has something non other has… each and every member get a car or a $10,000 a year car allowance.

A Washington Post article found in the last five years, those council members have racked up more than 100 traffic violations and 15 crashes in their taxpayer funded take-home cars.

Increase in wages, pensions and health care costs are straining budgets all across America. Sepp believes the needed leadership to control spending can only come from the top.

“One of the rationales for paying top elected officials so much money is that you have to attract good, talented people.” Sepp said. “Then, how do we explain the fact that in Virginia they get by paying their folks a lot less. Are they that much less talented? That’s hard to believe.”

We’ve reached out to the top three elected officials mentioned in this story. Here’s their responses:

Office of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser:

As the Nation’s Capital, the District of Columbia is unique and functions as a school district, city, county and a state–with an annual budget of over $13 billion. The Mayor’s salary is in line with the salaries of her counterparts in other major cities. The Mayor’s transportation and protection is also in line with her counterparts in other major cities, is aligned with that of her predecessors, and permissible by law.

Office of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker:

“There is a formal process per County Charter through the Compensation Review Board who makes recommendation on the salaries and benefits of the County Executive and County Council Members.”

Office of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett:

The County Executive’s compensation is set by law, approved by the County Council from recommendation by a citizen’s advisory committee.

His security detail, two officers who protect/drive him part-time and coordinate security for County buildings the other part, is not unusual for mayors and elected county executives of jurisdictions with more than a million residents. Another difference I might note is that Fairfax has a more lucrative defined benefit pension plan. Our CE has an ordinary 401-K.

Via 7 On Your Side

Read more >>>House flippers in Prince George’s County help pressure homeowners into foreclosure

Larry Hogan

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan makes less than Rushern Baker III running the entire state of Maryland, at $165,000. The Maryland leadership needs to act to prevent local officials driven by greed to toe the line and to avoid excessive swindling of the local resources which could be used in local schools.

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Maryland’s United States senator. Ben Cardin and Congressmen make $174,000, respectively. The Maryland leadership led by U.S Senators and congressmen needs to act to prevent local officials driven by greed to toe the line. We must demand accountability and avoidance of excessive swindling of the local resources by local leaders engaged in organized schemes. Extra money being misused could be utilized in local schools and elsewhere to assist the homeless population.

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Maryland’s United States senator.  Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen make $174,000. The Maryland leadership led by U.S Senators and congressmen needs to act to prevent local officials driven by greed to toe the line. We must demand accountability and avoidance of excessive swindling of the local resources by local leaders engaged in organized schemes. Extra money being misused could be utilized in local schools and elsewhere to assist the homeless population.

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COMMUNITIES REJECT CELL TOWERS NEAR ELEANOR ROOSEVELT HS, ACCOKEEK ACADEMY

ProposedTowerGREENBELT – Although on the surface Accokeek and Greenbelt may not have much in common, the two cities on opposite ends of Princes George’s County are fighting similar battles at the same time.

Both do not want to see a cellphone tower built at their thriving school and near their homes.

“Obviously I’m furious,” said Dason Bobo, a Greenbelt resident. “They’re proposing a tower and already decided to move forward on a tower that is a few hundred feet from my house.”

Last week, the two groups stood in unity as residents of Greenbelt met in Lanham with representatives of Milestone Communications about a proposal to build a cellphone tower at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, directly adjacent to several homes. While the meeting location was an annoyance for several gathered at the meeting, including the Greenbelt mayor and mayor pro tem, it was quite a hike for several Accokeek residents who traveled to the meeting in solidarity with the Greenbelt community and to rehash their complaints about a tower proposal at Accokeek Academy.

The meeting with Milestone was held at the Seabrook Seventh Day Adventist Church on April 25, outside of Greenbelt city limits and on the same day and time as a county board of education meeting, even though the proposal includes school grounds. Greenbelt’s Mayor Pro Tem Judy Davis pointed out that the city building was not being used that night, while Eleanor Roosevelt High faculty and families noted the school as also unoccupied.

This was something that did not escape Bobo, either.

“Was this intentionally planned to conflict with the school board meeting?” he asked.

Bobo was just one voice among the large crowd packed into the meeting room in the church. He came armed with a video camera and several questions that he would not let up on. During the meeting he was forceful, demanding answers from the Milestone Communications and T-Mobile representatives.

It was an extremely heated meeting that started rocky and only got worse as time ticked on. Sean Hughes, an attorney representing Milestone Communications, and Derrick Green, who works for the cellphone tower company, attempted to move through a prepared presentation quickly, but were stopped multiple times by questions and accusations from the crowd gathered.

“I understand that some of you are not happy about certain things, but some of you would never be happy,” Hughes said to the crowd after several minutes of shouting.

During the presentation, Hughes explained the need for the tower, which would house T-Mobile initially with the possibility of expanding to other carriers, the proposed location and what that location would look like from surrounding areas. During the presentation of renderings of the tower there were shouts of “that is right next to my house” and “who gave you the right” as photos showed the proximity of the proposed tower to nearby residential buildings.

The proposed tower is just feet away from Bobo’s house, which he bought from his mother a few years ago. Bobo said he loves living in the city of Greenbelt and making his childhood house into his own home, but said with the possibility of a new cellphone tower being built so close to his property he is considering moving away.

“I didn’t just consider moving, I actually was looking at homes last weekend,” he said, explaining that he does not want to expose himself and his future family to radiation from the tower. “They’re literally pushing me off my land and forcing me to go somewhere else.”

And this is about more than just aesthetics and property values for many of the residents of both Greenbelt and Accokeek – it’s about health concerns and what these towers mean for the children in the schools.

“They’re trying to rationalize our health for money in their pockets and that’s not acceptable,” Mary Goldsmith, an Accokeek resident, said. “It’s made to believe that we are actually willing to put ourselves at risk for wireless service, which is totally untrue and false.”

Milestone, however, brought a scientist to the meeting to explain the details of the towers and the type of radiation they emit. Kevin McManus said the radiation coming off the towers is comparable to visible light and quoted from several research papers he had brought with him.

“This is called non-ionizing radiation. Non-ionizing radiation is a form of energy that does not have the strength “to break chemical bonds and harm your cellular structures,” he said.

McManus continually said there was no conclusive evidence to prove that radiation from cellphone towers causes harm, but those gathered in the room were quick to point out that there is also no evidence to prove that it doesn’t.

Research done by several organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), concluded that the radiation emission levels at the ground near a tower are below the safety limits set by the FCC in 1996.

However, researchers across the country and world have consistently called for further exploration into the issue as technology and dependency on cellphones changes.

To that point, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FCC, CDC and American Cancer Society have all stated the effects of radiation from cell towers and cellular devices is still an “area of active research.” All of those organizations are still evaluating and researching long-term effects of the radiation, as well as “chronic exposure.” While, at the same time, the World Health Organization classified the radio frequency radiation, which cell towers emit, as a Group 2B carcinogenic in a press release from 2011. A Group 2B carcinogenic is a possible cancer-causing agent.

Although the members of both communities have several concerns about the towers, there is not much they can do in terms of fighting them off.

Cellphone towers on school grounds has been a long-running issue in Prince George’s County, elsewhere across Maryland and the nation. In 2011 the county school board signed a contract with Milestone Communications that listed 73 potential school sites for possible tower construction. That contract also lays the groundwork for how the school system would be paid for the towers: $25,000 for each built tower and 40 percent of the profits from each.

That contract was renewed just last year.

“This is an entire Prince George’s County issue and it’s just unacceptable,” Goldsmith said.

Despite few options, Accokeek residents are ready to take action. Goldsmith said the community is ready to take on Milestone Communications for, what they see as, a trend in failing to fully notify surrounding areas (several at the April meetings said they were not notified about the tower or the meeting itself, and meetings were held outside of the area affected by the tower and on dates when public officials cannot be present).

DeeDee Smith-Foster, another Accokeek resident, said the community around Accokeek Academy had similar concerns to those surrounding Roosevelt who said they were not notified of the possible tower.

Smith-Foster and Goldsmith said the Accokeek community is ready to take Milestone to court and they have a case date set for May 22.

“This (tower) is not in the best interest of the students, the community or the staff that attend that school,” Smith-Foster said.

via Sentinel 

Reform Sasscer Movement for Prince George’s County previously covered this story here years ago.

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