R.C., Church, Diocese & Verizon Relent On Cell Tower Next To Playground

Verizon, The Diocese of San Bernardino, Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the city of Rancho Cucamonga have all made a strategic retreat in the face of parental opposition to the Rancho Cucamonga Planning Commission’s January 2012 approval of the placement of a cellular phone tower next to the playground of the Sacred Heart Parochial School.
All four entities have now agreed to instead place the soon-to-be-erected tower at the northern end of the church parking lot. Sacred Heart Church and its parochial school are located near the northeast corner of Foothill Blvd. and the I-15 Freeway.
Parents of students attending the school grew irate when they learned in November that the Diocese of San Bernardino and the church had closed a deal with Verizon to turn a profit by hosting the tower and had not consulted with or notified them before making that commitment. Some parents expressed concern that the tower’s electrical field could negatively impact the health of the students attending Sacred Heart.
Studies done in Scandinavia show a relation between the proximity of high intensity electrical fields and elevated levels of leukemia in children. Other studies completed at the University of Colorado at Boulder show that continuous exposure to electrical fields can have deleterious health consequences.
Verizon was faulted for considering locating the tower so close to where children congregate. The city of Rancho Cucamonga and its planning commission were criticized for approving the erection of the tower next to a school. The Diocese of San Bernardino and its bishop, Gerald Barnes, fell under criticism for their action in the matter. The diocese has staffed the parish with priests from Nigeria, who it has been alleged, were not sophisticated enough to recognize the potential for harm to the students posed by the cellular tower.
The parochial vicar at Sacred Heart, Father Augustine Amadi, referred questions about the circumstance to the church’s pastor, Father Benedict Nwachukwu-Udaku. Father Nwachukwu-Udaku was busy preparing for and celebrating Mass on Tuesday, January 22, was involved in a meeting at the diocese headquarters all day on January 23 and could not be reached despite more than a half dozen attempts on January 24.
A phone call to Bishop Gerald Barnes was referred to diocese spokesman John Andrews.
Andrews confirmed that proposals for the placement of the tower varied over time and that the city had a part in dictating the tower location that had led to the controversy.  “We were having informal discussions and in the process of that the setbacks became an issue for the city, so another location was selected and eventually approved,” he said. “That was not the first place it was going to be put.”
Andrews insisted the location approved by the planning commission last year was a suitable location that represented no health risk to Sacred Heart’s students.
“There is no way we would have agreed to put that there if we thought that location would be a health threat to the children or anyone else who would be on that property,” Andrews said. “The issue was studied and the conclusion was the emissions from the tower would be about ten times below the limit set by the Federal Communications Commission.”
As to the suggestion that Father Nwachukwu-Udaku’s naïveté had been exploited to the potential detriment of the children at the Sacred Heart Parochial School, Andrews said, “I think that is completely off base and insulting to the priest. If you know the pastor of the church, he is a brilliant man. He is a published writer and has several degrees. That is just a cheap shot. This decision was made before he became pastor by the man who was at that time serving as the pastoral coordinator of the church, who is no longer there.”
That the positioning of the planned tower is going to be modified, Andrews said, “is not a vindication of their [the complaining parents’] position [that the earlier intended location of the tower represented a health threat to their children].  You need to understand that we had made plans to expand the school and it was discovered at some point that where the tower was to be was in the footprint of where we want to expand.”
With regard to the parents’ concerns, he said, “While we did not feel there was any health threat to the children, the ministry of the parish and the school is to be hospitable and receptive to the concerns the members of church and the parents express.”

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