Wireless tower proposed at Creston School

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The Creston School District will hold an informational meeting today about a wireless internet tower proposed to go up near Creston School.

MontanaSky Networks is asking to install the 118-foot-tall green mono-pole.

According to Creston School Principal Tami Ward, the tower will be located between 65 and 157 Creston Road, which would place it a short distance past the school that is home to about 100 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Ward said the tower is not currently planned to hold any cellular technology, only wireless internet equipment. However, some community members have expressed concern about the possibility of the communications tower being installed in the area.

Ward said she wasn’t comfortable discussing terms of the proposed agreement between the school district and MontanaSky, but said all the information would be available at Thursday’s meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. at Creston School.

“There is a lot of information out there that’s not correct,” Ward said. “That’s why we want people to come to the meeting and get all the information.”

MontanaSky Networks CEO Ryan Bowman said there is a big difference between cellular and wireless technology.

“Wireless technology works on much lower frequencies and there is a lot less equipment involved,” Bowman said. “The tower wouldn’t be currently used for cellphone use, but it could be in the future if a company like Verizon wanted to put equipment on the tower. In that event, we and the school would split the profit.

“We understand how people feel because no one wants a tower in their neighborhood, but at the same time, many people want the technology.”

Bowman explained that in exchange for MontanaSky getting an easement to put the tower up, the school would receive wireless internet free of charge.

Bowman also said there is a cellphone tower in the area, so he doesn’t believe another company would be interested in using the proposed tower for cellular purposes.

“As it is proposed, the tower would be used for wireless technology. It is line-of-sight, which means it wouldn’t work unless you can see it,” Bowman said.

Bowman said the school wouldn’t have to pay for construction costs, which he estimated between $150,000 and $200,000, or the fiber-optic monthly fees, which could cost between $1,000 and $2,000 per month.

“Every student in the school has an iPad and they use a lot of bandwidth, so the school wanted to improve its capabilities to handle all the web traffic,” Bowman said.

He also said the school had explored installing the equipment on its own, but the estimated cost of more than $400,000 was too much.

“Creston School has been with us since the beginning, so we consider it a good community partnership with a longtime customer. Our payout may come down the road if the area continues to grow and the demand for faster wireless technology increases.

“Most people consider wireless technology a necessity these days, not just a luxury,” Bowman said.

The Creston school board will vote on the agreement at a later date.

In May the Kalispell school board voted against Verizon’s request to install, maintain and operate “communications equipment” on Flathead High School. That plan drew public outcry from residents concerned about potential health impacts of exposure to radio frequency radiation emitted by cell towers. Petitions submitted to the board garnered 1,038 signatures rejecting the proposal.

Verizon would have paid the school district $1,700 in monthly rent ­— a total of $20,400 annually.

Currently, a Verizon cellular tower is located at Memorial Field in Whitefish, which is in the vicinity of Whitefish High School.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at (406) 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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