Pittsfield City Council to Revisit Cell Tower Conversation Next Week

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The cell tower conversation will pick up again next week with City Council agenda items from Ward 4 Councilor James Conant and Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren.

They have requested that the state and federal delegation is notified of the council's position on the negative health effects of cell tower radiation and that the Massachusetts Municipal Association, Mayor Linda Tyer, and Lisa Blackmer are contacted for assistance, solutions, and legislation to deal with the negative effects of cell tower radiation.

This comes about five months after the Board of Health voted to rescind its cease and desist order on the Verizon cell tower at 877 South St. Litigation has been filed by both the residents of the Shacktown area and the telecommunications company.

"We are writing to request on behalf of the City of Pittsfield and other constituents regarding that your Commission act regarding the mandate in the judgment by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Environmental Health Trust et al. v. the FCC on August 13, 2021," A proposed communication to Jessica Rosenworcel, chair of the Federal Communications Commission reads.

"We, like municipal leaders nationwide, are faced with questions regarding cell tower health effects and we have no report or federal safety evaluation to provide in response to their questions. Our community has constituents who have become ill with symptoms that our Board of Health has determined to be likely caused by the cell tower radiofrequency radiation emissions,"

"When public health agencies are approached for help they point to the FCC regulations. Yet the Commission's human exposure limits for radiofrequency have not been updated since 1996 and it is unclear what health agency is researching cell tower radiation health and safety issues or monitoring the ambient exposures and providing oversight regarding wireless company infrastructure."

Since the tower's erection in August 2020, Alma Street resident Courtney Gilardi and her daughter have spoken during open microphone about negative health effects they say are from electromagnetic fields (EMF) generated by the antennae on the 115-foot pole.

The BOH voted to act on the cease-and-desist order in April 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.

In May, 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 which 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.

The council in June 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 councilors were informed of the suit from Verizon.

Since the board rescinded the order, the residents in July filed a civil action suit in Berkshire Superior Court against Mayor Linda Tyer, City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta, Pittsfield Cellular Telephone Co. (Verizon Wireless,) and the Board of Health.

This case is an appeal of the board's June decision to rescind the order after the telecommunications company filed a case against the city of Pittsfield in federal court and is a request for declaratory relief.

In August, residents asked the Supreme Judicial Court to weigh in on the city's notification process for the cell tower, alleging that they found out about it when construction vehicles showed up on their narrow residential roads.

Most recently, the residents filed a suit to disqualify Donovan O'Connor & Dodig law firm from representing the city and a request for default after the defendants did not answer the suit filed in July.

It alleges that the law firm, with whom City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta is a managing partner, has "disqualifying conflicts of interest" because Pagnotta is one of the defendants and has admitted to not having expertise in cell tower litigation in the past.

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Pittsfield Starbucks Closed Temporarily

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff

A sign outside the coffee shop assures customers the closure is only temporary. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Your alarm goes off, you get ready, and you leave for school, work, or whatever your appointment a little bit early to get a cup of coffee to start your day, only to find that the Pittsfield Starbucks, located at  555 Hubbard Ave., is closed. 
The sign has been removed, and the drive-through is blocked, but Starbucks coffee addicts need not worry — this closure is only temporary. 
The coffee shop closed its doors temporarily on July 7 to undergo a standard renovation with the chain's new Siren System, a Starbucks spokesperson said. 
According to the signage, the reopening date is projected to be Aug. 21. 
According to its website, the Siren System is part of the chain's Starbucks Reinvention plan, which aims to improve the experience for partners and staff by responding to changing needs and increasing demands. 
"As a standard course of business, we continually evaluate our store portfolio using various criteria to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers," the spokesperson said. 
The chain's article on unveiling its innovations said, "Over the past few years, the number of cold beverages ordered has surpassed the number of hot drinks year-round. And, two in three drinks ordered have requested customizations such as extra espresso shots and flavorings."
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