cell-tower-fullBy Lindy Iversen
To have or not to have one and maybe three cell towers (Rogers, Bell & Telus) at our beautiful harbour in the municipality of Meaford, is one part of the question.

The other part: 'Will our municipal council conduct a genuine citizen's engagement process that is heard and has influence regarding this issue?"

How council handles this important matter will have long-standing repercussions for our community.

Writing In the April 2013 issue of Municipal World magazine, Erin O'Hoski had this suggestion: "The dialogue needs to move from immediate needs and desires to the development of shared solutions for the future."

The proposed cell tower at Meaford Harbour presents our community with a classic case of right vs. right now.

The right thing to do with respect to the cell tower proposal is to wait for the SWIFT Network to arrive in the municipality. It's close. An ultra-broadband fibre-optic network is being strategically installed throughout Southwestern Ontario. SWIFT is being promoted by the Western Ontario Wardens' Caucus as a major economic driver for small low density communities in the southwest region.

"If the SWIFT Network were here today, we'd have this problem licked," Todd White, Executive Director of Canadian Radio-communications and Notification Service (CRINS) told municipal councillors at their June 9th meeting. The network would allow Rogers to use small cell technology in the required service area (downtown); no tower would be needed, and the concerns about electro-magnetic radiation would be addressed.

The 'right now' decision would allow for one and maybe three cell towers at Meaford's harbour.

The perception is that there would be limited exposure to electro-magnetic radiation because fewer citizens live in the immediate vicinity. This may be true but Meaford's harbour is a hubbub of activity in the summer. There's a youth sailing school; the local farmers' market; the Scarecrow Invasion and Family Festival; car rallies; a seasonal marina. And the municipality is currently considering a Waterfront strategy and master [lan report with the harbour as the focus.

Who benefits from a 'right now' decision? Kids playing at the harbour or enjoying the Scarecrow Invasion? Boaters? Meaford Farmers' Market shoppers? Rogers Telecommunications?

Rogers' rush to get approval to erect a cell tower seems to be more about profit than the health concerns of our citizens. Rogers may have to pay more for the space on the buried fibre-optic cable than the combined construction costs of the cell tower and lease for municipal land use.

Who is ultimately responsible for our children's health?

Todd White was emphatic when he said, "The federal government does not want new towers built if there are other options?" Isn't the Swift Broadband Network a realistic option?

Two big questions are on the table. Can our council build community trust through a genuine citizen's consultation process, and can we collectively develop a shared solution that protects and cares for all of our citizens now and into an uncertain future?

Communities that attend cooperatively to both these needs will be islands of hope in an otherwise unpredictable and possibly polarized future.

Lindy Iversen lives in Meaford. She can be reached at [email protected]




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