PITTSFIELD — Representatives from the Board of Health, city Health Department and Verizon Wireless will meet Thursday to discuss residents’ health concerns about a cell tower in the city.
The 115-foot tower, which sits at 877 South St., has been the source of constant conversation after the structure went live a year ago. Soon after Verizon flipped the switch, residents near Alma Street began complaining of nausea, dizziness and headaches.
Those residents have taken their concerns to City Council meetings, Community Development meetings, Zoning Board meetings and Board of Health meetings to contest the structure, saying the technology used to boost cell service from the tower has made them sick.
After a year of discussion between residents, city officials and consultants hired by the city to study the issue, Verizon is joining the conversation via the Zoom meeting Thursday.
Gina Armstrong, the city’s outgoing Health Department director, Andy Cambi, the incoming interim Health Department director, and Brad Gordon, a member of the Board of Health, will meet with four representatives from Verizon to present the results of months of city conversations and a report on the tower’s radiation levels, and pass along the health concerns and questions raised by residents at various city meetings.
The meeting will be one of the final orders of business for Armstrong, whose resignation during last week’s Board of Health meeting will go into effect Friday.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for them to hear and get a sense of the community’s pulse relative to the tower,” Gordon said during last week’s Board of Health meeting. “I don’t know what the result will be from that, but the fact that they’re willing to meet with us is a step in the right direction.”
Among the group representing Verizon will be a radio frequency consultant. The board briefly discussed bringing its own experts, but it decided that the conversation was best used to express the concerns already vocalized by residents.
“My goal at least, and I think our goal collectively, is not to get in an expert competition because, at the end of the day, I don’t know where that takes us,” Gordon said.
Courtney Gilardi, one of the residents who has been leading the charge for the cell tower to be relocated, called the upcoming meeting residents’ only hope for a speedy resolution.
Abutters to the tower hoped for a positive judgment in Berkshire Superior Court in a 2020 lawsuit against the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Verizon Wireless. The suit claimed that city didn’t follow the proper permit process before the tower was built.
That suit was thrown out last year and is being appealed. Gilardi told the board that she doesn’t expect the Appellate Court to hear that case until January, or issue a ruling until May.
“It may be a year or more before a response, and that is a long time to wait for those who are sick, suffering and living away from home,” Gilardi said. “We know that our best hope for immediate relief is a good outcome from the talks between each of you and Verizon.
“We are praying and waiting with bated breath for your efforts to be successful,” she added. “You guys are our hope.”
Hancock Shaker Village is relaunching its “Food for Thought” dinner series this week, with a conversation with a celebrity guest. The first discussion of this season will be Saturday, with Dorinda Medley of “Real Housewives of New York City” fame.
The dinner in the village’s outdoor Timberframe will focus on Medley’s new memoir “Make It Nice.” Tickets can be purchased on the village’s website, under the events section.
This article has been updated to reflect that a lawsuit against the Zoning Board of Appeals was dismissed in August 2020 and that the city has received one report on radiation levels at the cell tower. A photo caption has been clarified to show that Amelia Gilardi is a neighbor of the cell tower.