A History of Stewardship

Local History – Planetary Issue
A Local Fire Board Deals with RF Issues

As a public service, we are posting the following excerpts from the minutes of our local Fire Board as it confronts the controversial issues of wireless technology built-out and public safety. It is a case study in local democracy with relevance for other communities around the country dealing with the same issues.

Pt. 1 – Summary of actions
Pt. 2 – The Story in Excerpts

Pt 1. – BFPD Board Members Community Stewardship History re RF Microwave Pollution
June 28, 2000
SPRINT Lease – This item has been continued to the August 21, 2000 meeting.

Radio Frequency Radiation Report from Sage and Associates – VP Sands introduced the various representatives in the audience and proceeded to outline the issues the Fire Board is facing in regards to cumulative effects of radio frequency radiation, possible loss of revenues and the various concerns of the public.
[snip]

New Business
All Board members agreed the report should be accepted with the aforementioned changes. Also, that the proposal from Sage and Associates to complete the computer modeling be accepted at a cost of $2,475.00.

MSC, Sands,/Johnson (unan) to accept proposal from Sage and Associates for computer modeling for all 9 antennas in place and proposed for Fire District property.

The Board members were also in agreement to have Pres. Aitken and Chief Hicks research the possibility of relocating the MERA site to another piece of property in Bolinas that is much less populated.

July 31, 2000
Pres. Aitken – Special Meeting – Agenda Item – Workshop on the Radio Frequency Radiation Computer Modeling Report for the Bolinas Fire Protection District Wireless Communications Site. [snip]

Chief Hicks spoke with George Gruetzmacher, the Occupational Health Consultant for the Bureau of occupational Health for Wisconsin. He recommended the Fire District adopt the Russian standard for allowable RFR. Chief Hicks feels the District needs to decide what an allowable level is for our area then let the proposed and current sites see if they can work into those parameters.

The question arose as to how the District would determine who to let build here if individually, each site fell below our allowable standard but the cumulative effect was over the standard. Chief Hicks recommended the Board seek a legal opinion on this issue in the future.

The Board was in agreement to release the revised Sage and Associates report of July 22nd as a draft report to the public. The report on the KWMR antenna would be released as well.

January 15, 2001
Old Business

Sprint Request for Lease Buy Out – A letter was received on December 21, 2000 from John S. Boat, a lawyer representing Sprint PCS. On behalf of Sprint, he submitted an “offer to compromise” in regard to the lease the fire district has with Sprint. They are willing to accept $165, 212.20 from the District as reimbursement to cancel the lease agreement. Chief Hicks will speak with Jennifer Waldron of County Counsel regarding the letter. This will be discussed again at the February meeting.

February 19, 2001
Closed session to discuss possible Sprint litigation. At this time the meeting went into closed session to discuss the potential Sprint litigation with Jennifer Waldron of County Counsel. MSC Johnson/Phillips (unan) to sign tolling agreement with Sprint subject to County Counsel’s changes.

The financial report was distributed to the Board and discussed. MSC, Sands/Phillips (unan) to transfer $25,000 from the investment fund to the operating fund.

MSC, Sands/Johnson (unan) to approve warrant list.

Post-it note sticking onto minutes saying: SPRINT PAID

{Though there was little explanation in the minutes, Dale Johnson, who was a Fire District Board member at the time, in a conversation with Rachel Gertrude and myself, Mary Beth Brangan in April, 2011, recalled that, due to a huge outpouring of residents showing concern at a Fire Board meeting, the contract with SPRINT was bought out for $25,000.00. editor’s comments.]

March 25, 2002
Chief’s Report

Sprint related
The settlement papers were signed, the check mailed, and papers returned.

AT&T called to say they would be doing some routine maintenance the night of March 11. They actually were mounting new antennas for PCS type service. Chief Hicks called Ben Oyle, who is the AT&T field tech who takes care of the site, and he confirmed that they were adding antennas. Ian Johnson talked to him for technical comprehension. Chief Hicks then called the supervisor, whose name Ben Oyle had given us, and the legal contact identified on AT&T’s contact information and left a message that work needed to be stopped and proper notification and authorization made. Chief Hicks then left a message on the fence of the cell site for the work crew.

The BFPD needs a clearly articulated policy that we can tell the cell users, as this seems to be the trend.

-Nothing from April 2002 to May 2004-

June 28, 2004
Crown Castle also agreed to use the Site Safe study produced for Verizon as the baseline for current ERP and EMF at the site. [snip] The independent analysis will be used to support the validity of the numbers, it will ensure that the current levels will not be exceeded, and will fulfill the information required by the Marin County Planning Department.

July 27, 2004

Kim plans on informing the community about the new tower that will be higher than the existing antennae. The new tower’s EMF`s will not exceed those of the existing antennae.

September 27, 2004
Ian Johnson and Vice Pres. Binley will meet with Crown Castle and the County to mutually agree on how to interpret data concerning a new tower at the Firehouse. Together they plan on defining the dimensions of the tower and limits for RF emissions. An outside reliable company will also interpret data and all results will be presented to the Bolinas community for review.

December 20, 2004

Vice Pres. Binley stated that his objective has been to produce a new tower configuration design that results in no additional radiation at ground level and provides two additional cellular sites….
…Chief Brown reiterated that no signing of any agreement would happen until all plans are presented to the Bolinas Community. She stated that the next step involves an independent study of radiation emissions.

May 17, 2005
Vice Pres. Binley continued by presenting the single one hundred foot tower configuration that would include current antenna’s for Verizon, Cingular, and Volunteer paging. Additionally, it would include MERA, Nextel and one more cell carrier. He reported that emissions from these antennas under worst case scenario conditions would be only 7% of the limit set by the FCC. The single tower configuration would actually lower the level of RF exposure to human beings in the vicinity of the firehouse and Mesa Park .

Vice Pres. Binley reiterated the beneficial features of the plan including honoring the Board’s commitment to the community by lowering RF’s, providing improved communications to the community, creating financial security to the District, and choosing a tower that is visually cleaner than the towers that currently exist. [snip]
The single tower configuration would actually lower the level of RF exposure to human beings in the vicinity of the firehouse and Mesa Park .

May 23, 2005

…Vice Pres. Binley suggested that those opposed to the proposal come up with a different proposal that incorporates and addresses all the issues at hand including financial feasibility, health risks and quality emergency communication.

Several community members including Peter Martinelli, Jim Heddle, Mary Beth Brangan,
Vivienne Roe, Zoë Gardiner and Rachel Gertrude formed a Citizen’s Committee at the meeting and asked for the Board’s endorsement for communication with MERA and Crown Castle. The Board supported their action. The Committee plans to make a progress report at the June Board Meeting, and a formal alternate proposal at the July Board Meeting.

June 28, 2005
Chief Brown also reported that she reviewed the Minutes since 2000 and learned that
indeed the Board promised the Bolinas Community four years ago that they would not
approve of raising emission levels of electro-magnetic frequencies higher than what is
currently emitted, as opposed to never adding additional cell antennas or MERA
antennas.,,, Vic Amoroso suggested a different proposal that included MERA at the Martinelli site,
leaving the existing cell sites at the station, and putting a measure on the ballot to raise the fire tax. The additional money would allow the District not to add any additional cell sites. Vic doubted the feasibility of the 100 foot proposed tower being approved by the Coastal Commission

July18, 2005
… Pres. Sands said that Sup. Steve Kinsey is paying attention to the Citizen’s Advisory Groups’ concerns. She reiterated that he is supportive of the Martinelli site for MERA and that the County may be able to produce extra funding to relieve the District of extra costs.

Jenny Pfeiffer thanked the Board and declared them as a model Board to be commended for representing their constituency so well.
==========

Pt. 2 – The Story in Excerpts

June 28, 2000
SPRINT Lease – This item has been continued to the August 21, 2000 meeting.

Radio Frequency Radiation Report from Sage and Associates – VP Sands introduced the various representatives in the audience and proceeded to outline the issues the Fire Board is facing in regards to cumulative effects of radio frequency radiation, possible loss of revenues and the various concerns of the public. She also explained that no decisions would be made tonight, the Board will need time to discuss the information presented at tonight’s meeting. At this time VP Sands turned over the floor to Cindy Sage of Sage and Associates.

Ms. Sage explained the addendum added to the preliminary report. Research was done on the existing Bolinas Fire District site as well as with the proposed MERA antenna and Sprint antenna. She outlined the entire report, specifically the individual and cumulative results of each existing antenna as well as proposed antennas. She felt that page 15 of the report was the best synopsis of the entire report.

Old Business
MERA Lease – The lease will still remain unsigned until information from the cumulative effects of RF can be determined from the Sage and Associates report currently being done. There is discussion of asking MERA to research the possibility of placing the antenna at another site in Bolinas that is less populated. A decision cannot be made until the results of the Sage report can be discussed.

New Business
Radio Frequency Radiation Report from Sage and Associates – Vice Pres. Sands felt that the draft report received from Cindy Sage was quite good. She did feel that a section should be added to the report which would put the predicted exposure levels at the Fire Station in context with the data in Appendix D regarding reported biological effects of RF/MW radiation. She feels that a summary section should also be added which specifically addresses the Bolinas Fire District property. Other questions she brought up consisted of when the consultation would take place regarding preparing for public meetings. She would like to see it happen before the July meeting and would like to see the effects, if any, from the KWMR radio antenna that was previously approved included in the report. In addition, there were several page specific comments. Also at issue are the existing leases with cellular phone companies. There is great concern for the cumulative effects on employees here, some of whom sleep here, and for surrounding areas adjacent to Fire District property.

All Board members agreed the report should be accepted with the aforementioned changes. Also, that the proposal from Sage and Associates to complete the computer modeling be accepted at a cost of $2,475.00.

MSC, Sands/Johnson (unan) to accept proposal from Sage and Associates for computer modeling for all 9 antennas in place and proposed for Fire District property.

The Board members were also in agreement to have Pres. Aitken and Chief Hicks research the possibility of relocating the MERA site to another piece of property in Bolinas that is much less populated.

July 31, 2000
Pres. Aitken – Special Meeting – Agenda Item – Workshop on the Radio Frequency Radiation Computer Modeling Report for the Bolinas Fire Protection District Wireless Communications Site. [snip]

Chief Hicks spoke with George Gruetzmacher, the Occupational Health Consultant for the Bureau of occupational Health for Wisconsin. He recommended the Fire District adopt the Russian standard for allowable RFR. Chief Hicks feels the District needs to decide what an allowable level is for our area then let the proposed and current sites see if they can work into those parameters.

The question arose as to how the District would determine who to let build here if individually, each site fell below our allowable standard but the cumulative effect was over the standard. Chief Hicks recommended the Board seek a legal opinion on this issue in the future.

The Board was in agreement to release the revised Sage and Associates report of July 22nd as a draft report to the public. The report on the KWMR antenna would be released as well.

January 15, 2001
Old Business

Sprint Request for Lease Buy Out – A letter was received on December 21, 2000 from John S. Boat, a lawyer representing Sprint PCS. On behalf of Sprint, he submitted an “offer to compromise” in regard to the lease the fire district has with Sprint. They are willing to accept $165, 212.20 from the District as reimbursement to cancel the lease agreement. Chief Hicks will speak with Jennifer Waldron of County Counsel regarding the letter. This will be discussed again at the February meeting.

February 19, 2001
Closed session to discuss possible Sprint litigation. At this time the meeting went into closed session to discuss the potential Sprint litigationwith Jennifer Waldron of County Counsel. MSC Johnson/Phillips (unan) to sign tolling agreement with Sprint subject to County Counsel’s changes.

The financial repot was distributed to the Board and discussed. MSC, Sands/Phillips (unan) to transfer $25,000 from the investment fund to the operating fund.

MSC, Sands/Johnson (unan) to approve warrant list.

Post-it note sticking onto minutes saying: SPRINT PAID

Though there was little explanation in the minutes, Dale Johnson, who was a Fire District Board member at the time, in a conversation with Rachel Gertrude and Mary Beth Brangan in April, 2011, recalled that, due to a huge outpouring of residents showing concern at a Fire Board meeting, the contract with SPRINT was bought out for $25,000.00.

March 25, 2002
Chief’s Report

Sprint related
The settlement papers were signed, the check mailed, and papers returned.

AT&T called to say they would be doing some routine maintenance the night of March 11. They actually were mounting new antennas for PCS type service. Chief Hicks called Ben Oyle, who is the AT&T field tech who takes care of the site, and he confirmed that they were adding antennas. Ian Johnson talked to him for technical comprehension. Chief Hicks then called the supervisor, whose name Ben Oyle had given us, and the legal contact identified on AT&T’s contact information and left a message that work needed to be stopped and proper notification and authorization made. Chief Hicks then left a message on the fence of the cell site for the work crew.

The BFPD needs a clearly articulated policy that we can tell the cell users, as this seems to be the trend.

June 28, 2004
Crown Castle also agreed to use the Site Safe study produced for Verizon as the baseline for current ERP and EMF at the site. Kim and Mary Beth Brangan plan to take Crown Castle’s proposal to a third party engineer to validate calculations and do a new field study to verify the baseline information of current EMF and ERP levels. The independent analysis will be used to support the validity of the numbers, it will ensure that the current levels will not be exceeded, and will fulfill the information required by the Marin County Planning Department.

July 27, 2004
Kim plans on informing the community about the new tower that will be higher than the existing antennae. The new tower’s EMF`s will not exceed those of the existing antennae.

September 27, 2004
Ian Johnson and Vice Pres. Binley will meet with Crown Castle and the County to mutually agree on how to interpret data concerning a new tower at the Firehouse. Together they plan on defining the dimensions of the tower and limits for RF emissions. An outside reliable company will also interpret data and all results will be presented to the Bolinas community for review.

December 20, 2004
Vice Pres. Binley stated that his objective has been to produce a new tower configuration design that results in no additional radiation at ground level and provides two additional cellular sites….
…Chief Brown reiterated that no signing of any agreement would happen until all plans are presented to the Bolinas Community. She stated that the next step involves an independent study of radiation emissions.

…Vice Pres Binley will be absent when the study and negotiations are finalized. He recommended that when presenting options to the Bolinas Community, the Board keep all debates on a technical level. He also suggested that the independent study of the proposed 100-foot tower be done by a company that uses a different software system for data analysis than the software that Site Safe uses. This would insure meaningful comparative data and be worth its cost.

May 17, 2005
Chief Brown began the discussion by asking everyone present to walk outside of the station and look at the existing tower configuration. Once outside, she and Asst. Chief Camiccia described the function and history of each tower and explained the need to move the towers as they are directly in the way of plans for construction of the new firehouse. Presently, one tower is owned by Crown Castle and the other by Cingular. Each company leases the space from the District and pays monthly fees which amount to approximately 25% of the District’s annual income.

After everyone attending was located back inside the engine bay, Chief Brown introduced Vice Pres. Binley. Vice Pres. Binley began his presentation with his handmade models of the existing and proposed towers. As he set up his models, he described the two existing towers, one owned by Crown Castle which has the low band Marin County Fire and Marin County Sheriff systems on it and the other owned by Cingular. He then described how the two existing towers would be replaced by one higher tower.

Vice Pres. Binley outlined the concern about electromagnetic wave exposure to persons working at the station and in the greater Bolinas community. He described how exposure is determined by the frequency of the waves, the design of the antennae, the amount of power and the proximity of the tower to people. Under the current standards of “safe” exposure developed by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), the present configuration in a ‘worst case scenario’, i.e., when all the sites on the towers are active and emitting RF’s, emits RFs at a rate that is only 13% of the limit set by the FCC. Binley went on to explain that Russian standards for safe RF emissions are the most stringent in all of Europe. He reported that our current configuration of towers emits below what is allowed in Russia, where the level of acceptable RF’s is considerably lower than in the US.

Don Smith asked how radio frequencies emitted from cell phones relate to FCC standards.

Ian Johnson reported that the rate of emission of RFs from cell phones are three to four times greater than the percentage that is currently emitted from the present tower configuration under worst case scenario conditions.

FF Ronald Brown explained that exposure to radio frequencies decreases at a rate equal to its inverse square. Essentially, the rate decreases exponentially with each foot of distance away from the source of emission.

Mary Beth Brangan reported that the FCC standard set for RFs are based on thermal effects. She reported that no research or consideration has been given to their effect on human cells. She said there is currently a law suit against the FCC to reconsider standards and incorporate broader health issues.

Vice Pres. Binley continued by presenting the single one hundred foot tower configuration that would include current antenna’s for Verizon, Cingular, and Volunteer paging. Additionally, it would include MERA, Nextel and one more cell carrier. He reported that emissions from these antennas under worst case scenario conditions would be only 7% of the limit set by the FCC. The single tower configuration would actually lower the level of RF exposure to human beings in the vicinity of the firehouse and Mesa Park .

Wendy DiPaula, a neighbor of the firehouse expressed concern for how the frequencies travel and where they are most condensed at ground level.

Ian Johnson and Dennis Wilbourne explained that the emission pattern is doughnut shaped and decays rapidly with each additional foot of distance away from the tower. The “hottest” spot with the greatest amount of radio waves would be thirty five feet away from the tower and six feet off of the ground.

Concern for the children at the playground was raised as they are and would be in close proximity to the towers. Binley explained that the RFs are pointed away from the play ground and towards the Mesa where there is the greatest percentage of people using cell phones.

Chief Brown supports the new configuration and described it as a “win-win” situation for all concerned. After receiving the results from studies completed by both Crown Castle and Hatfield and Dawson, an engineering firm with no previous relationship with MERA, Marin County or Crown Castle, and hired by the District to model the data and compare it to Crown Castle’s findings, she feels confident that the new configuration is better for all as the RF emissions will be significantly lower than what is currently emitted. Also, the new tower would be 75’ away from the new fire station, lowering RF exposure to employees and visitors to the station including her own children.

Vice Pres. Binley reiterated the beneficial features of the plan including honoring the Board’s commitment to the community by lowering RF’s, providing improved communications to the community, creating financial security to the District, and choosing a tower that is visually cleaner than the towers that currently exist. The new single tower would be taller but would not have lights, and would be painted in neutral tones to better blend with the natural environment.

Rachel Gertrude suggested that the single tower be moved to the Martinelli site.

Sup. Steve Kinsey described a proposed move to the Martinelli site as a tedious process. First, he explained that survey and property boundary issues make the site problematic. He said the site would cost at least $100,000 more to develop and would take at least one and one half years before construction could even begin. He explained a monthly lease payment would be necessary at the Martinelli site, and that the District site would be free of charge with no operating costs due to the District being a MERA member agency.

Mary Beth Brangan asked if the Martinelli site would be more efficient and effective for tower function as it is situated at a 500 foot higher elevation than the station. She also suggested going ahead with the proposed plan for the new tower and then moving it to the Martinelli site.

Sup. Steve Kinsey reported that the District site meets MERA’s specifications for “capacity of communications” and is fully functional.

Chief Brown reported that even if the Martinelli site was developed and the MERA tower was moved there, there would still be a necessity for a tower with cell sites at the new station which would emit RFs at 4.3% of the FCC standard. Moving the MERA communication tower would not completely alleviate the RF emission issue at the station and would in fact be of great financial cost to the community.

Mary Beth stated that the health costs could potentially be much greater than moving costs if anyone were to become sick from exposure.

Jim Heddle stated that he believes that the FCC standard for “safe” exposure is arbitrary as health risks for long and short term exposure to both low and high levels of RFs are still unknown. He stated effects on public health may not be seen for years to come. He asked the Board if the new configuration is a “done deal” and if there is a chance for recourse from the community.

Vice Pres. Binley stated that he will take into consideration everything said at the community meeting when negotiating with MERA and Crown Castle as he is a volunteer Board member who represents the community.

At this point in the meeting, Vice Pres. Binley adjourned the meeting.

Pres. Sands then reopened the floor for questions as many people expressed a need for more discussion.

David Kimball stated that no one promised “safe” levels of RFs as their safety is still unknown. However, he continued, the need for communications for emergency services are important and have to be considered with and against the possible health risks of RF exposure.

Asst. Chief Camiccia pointed out that currently we are being exposed to RFs at a higher level than what is proposed by the new tower when we sit in front of a computer or use a cell phone. He stated the need for emergency communication far out weighs the potential health risks of RF exposure in his mind.

Mary Beth Brangan stated that the technology for developing radio communication has developed from the defense industry and is not compatible with biological systems. She urged everyone to educate themselves and compel the communication industry to prioritize biological compatibility in design.

Discussion ensued regarding the risks of compromised emergency radio communication vs. the potential health hazards of RF exposure. The popular use of cell phones dictates the need for cell sites.

Bob Gold suggested that a possible solution to the necessity of the tower might be to incorporate thin sheet metal into the siding of the new fire station which would block exposure to anyone inside, employees or visitors, from RF waves.

David Burnett of the CHA acknowledged the Board’s hard work in negotiating and creating a plan for the tower. He stated a compromise is inevitable and that all should consider what the most responsible solution would be.

Mary Beth Brangan thanked the Board for all of their hard work regarding the tower configuration.

Pres. Sands thanked everyone for coming and adjourned the meeting at approximately 9:30PM.

May 23, 2005
Pres. Sands began the discussion by giving a brief history of the
present tower configurations and describing the new configuration proposal. She outlined the Board’s intention to serve the community and hear all questions and issues. She outlined the new plan highlighting three aspects; the RFs emitted by the new single tower would be lower than what is presently emitted, the cell sites on the tower generate income for the District at approximately one quarter of the District’s budget, and the demand for cell sites is based on the use and popularity of cell phones in Bolinas and outside communities.

Pres. Sands stated that if in the future there is sufficient reason, the District can cancel leases with cell companies at a cost to tax payers in the community.

…Vice Pres. Binley suggested that those opposed to the proposal come up with a different proposal that incorporates and addresses all the issues at hand including financial feasibility, health risks and quality emergency communication.

Several community members including Peter Martinelli, Jim Heddle, Mary Beth Brangan,
Vivienne Roe, Zoë Gardiner and Rachel Gertrude formed a Citizen’s Committee at the meeting and asked for the Board’s endorsement for communication with MERA and Crown Castle. The Board supported their action. The Committee plans to make a progress report at the June Board Meeting, and a formal alternate proposal at the July Board Meeting.

Mary Beth Brangan thanked the Board for all their hard work on the tower issue and recognized all of the long hours members of the Board have been spent in meetings.

June 28, 2005
Chief Brown also reported that she reviewed the Minutes since 2000 and learned that indeed the Board promised the Bolinas Community four years ago that they would not approve of raising emission levels of electro-magnetic frequencies higher than what is currently emitted, as opposed to never adding additional cell antennas or MERA antennas.

…David Kimball suggested that perhaps another site besides the Martinelli land could be used. He also asked if the MERA technology is a long term solution or a temporary
technology. He suggested that everyone use what he calls the “precautionary principle”, and look at what is most beneficiary for the whole community including rapid response time to emergency situations and long term health concerns. He suggested that the community stop using cell phones to diminish demand for cell sites.

…Arian Dar suggested that a community vote would determine the amount of actual
concern in the Community.

,,, Vic Amoroso suggested a different proposal that included MERA at the Martinelli site, leaving the existing cell sites at the station, and putting a measure on the ballot to raise the fire tax. The additional money would allow the District not to add any additional cell sites. Vic doubted the feasibility of the 100 foot proposed tower being approved by the Coastal Commission.

… Two members from the Stinson Beach Communications Adhoc Committee related how they had successfully urged the Stinson Beach Fire Board to reject proposed cell sites from both Sprint and Nextel. They added that the public has a right to know about potential RF exposure before decisions are made and that the public also has a right to know when they are exposed to RFs and at what levels. Marion Weber suggested installing a monitoring device for public use.

… Jenny Pfieffer thanked the Board for being willing to hear all points of view and for all of their time spent on the tower issue.

July 18, 2005
Citizens Group Report
Pres. Sands began the report by outlining the five criteria for solutions to the tower issue created by the Citizens’ Advisory Group:
1) short and long term public safety from radio frequency emissions
2) the BFPD’s fundamental ability to meet its responsibilities to the community
3) public unity and trust
4) project momentum
5) affordability

… Pres. Sands said that Sup. Steve Kinsey has heard the concerns of the Citizen’s
Advisory Group and is supportive of the MERA tower located at the Martinelli site. The site however, will take longer to develop due to the needs for road and power access, the construction of a building and tower, etc.

… Pres. Sands said that Sup. Steve Kinsey is paying attention to the Citizen’s Advisory Groups’ concerns. She reiterated that he is supportive of the Martinelli site for MERA and that the County may be able to produce extra funding to relieve the District of extra costs.

Jenny Pfeiffer thanked the Board and declared them as a model Board to be commended for representing their constituency so well.