Pittsfield City Council Puts Verizon Cell Tower Litigation to Rest

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council has put the possibility of litigation against Verizon over the cell tower at 877 South St. to rest.

On Tuesday, the panel voted to file a petition that requested $84,000 of city funds to hire legal counsel against the telecommunications company. It was previously sidelined when the council was informed that Verizon filed a case against the city of Pittsfield in federal court.

Early this year, the Board of Health voted to issue a cease-and-desist order for the tower after hearing of negative health effects from Alma Street resident Courtney Gilardi since it was erected in August 2020.

In early April, the board voted to act on the order nearly two months after first approving it. This vote was conditioned on the order being withdrawn without prejudice if the board was unable to retain legal counsel prior to an administrative or judicial proceeding.

Last month, Verizon, operating as Pittsfield Cellular Telephone, asked for a declaratory judgment from the U.S. District Court in Springfield against the city. The company claimed that the board violated Section 332 of the federal Telecommunications Act (TCA) of 1996 that prohibits state and local governments from regulating a personal wireless service facility because of perceived health effects from radiofrequency emissions that comply with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations.

Early this month the board voted to rescind the order, stating that litigation is not the solution right now.

The company on June 2 filed for dismissal of the case in U.S. Court because the Board of Health had not filed an answer or motion. Verizon's filing noted that the board had rescinded its cease-and-desist order "thereby making this action moot."
The next day, Judge Mark G. Mastroianni denied as moot Gilardi and others' request to be accepted as intervenors in the case and added the notation that "The clerk of the court is respectfully requested to close the case."

The City Council's filing of the petition indicates that no further action will be taken on the matter. Once a matter is placed on file, it cannot be filed again for consideration in the same calendar year.

Gilardi said she came to this meeting a different kind of awake because she realized that help was never really on the way. She saw the cease-and-desist order as a beacon of hope.

"We were deprived of justice and we were deprived of the opportunity to go home each and every one of these people here," she said, referencing the community members who joined her at the meeting.

Gilardi's testimony went beyond the three-minute limit for open microphone and President Peter Marchetti called a five-minute recess for the meeting, visibly frustrated.

Eight other people, including Gilardi's daughter Amelia, spoke on the cell tower at the meeting.

"This situation didn't have to get to this point. If it was handled up front and legally this whole mess could have been avoided. Well, here we are and it most certainly was not handled correctly, I don't think, in fact, it was handled in the worst possible way, now we have a monumental problem," Alma Street resident Elaine Ireland said.

"To add insult to injury, starving the legal counsel and necessary funds to move forward with a cease-and-desist is an outrageous statement of deference. I personally invested my hard-earned money, heart and soul in my home, I'll be damned if I'm going to lay down and get bulldozed over because a few officials miscalculated how their actions would destroy a whole neighborhood, uproot families, and create a host of health issues."

Similar to Gilardi, Ireland said the tower has displaced her from her home.

The council did approve a request to recognize Thursday, June 16, as World Electrohypersensitivity Day by adopting a resolution from Gilardi and at-Large Councilor Karen Kalinowsky.

Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick voted in opposition after questioning City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta if adopting this means the city is recognizing EHS as a medical condition. Pagnotta clarified that the resolution just expresses support for EHS awareness.

In other news, the council voted to adopt an affordable housing trust to create and preserve accessible housing in the community.  

The Ordinances and Rules subcommittee supported the trust last week.

Tags: cell tower,   lawsuit,   Verizon,   

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Portrait Exhibition on View at BCC

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College (BCC) presents "Countenance," an exhibition of portraits by artist Janna Essig, on view in Koussevitzky Gallery through April 28, 2023. 
The gallery is open Monday–Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is free. 
"Countenance" features original paintings by the artist, who earned an associate degree in liberal arts from BCC and moved on to UMass Amherst to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree in art education and a master's degree in education with a focus on creativity.
"In most of my artwork I am working from memory and not using a model or photo," said Essig, who in 2008 started exploring using the face as an icon with a series of watercolor portraits. She painted the faces of seven people who were taken from their homes in Iran and imprisoned for practicing their Bahai faith. 
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