By Jenna O’Donnell |
LITTLE SILVER – Borough officials will appoint a special counsel to deal with matters related to a contested cell tower that was installed on borough property in May.
Mayor Robert C. Neff and members of the borough council announced that decision, which came out of an executive session last month, during a Monday night council work-shop meeting and passed a resolution to appoint a special counsel at the regular meeting which followed.
“We want to keep moving on this,” Neff said, before the council passed the resolution.
Kevin N. Starkey of Starkey, Kelly, Kenneally, Cunningham & Turnbach in Brick was selected from three attorneys interviewed by Neff, Councilman Daniel J. O’Hern Jr. and borough attorney Meghan Bennet Clark. He will be tasked with handling all matters that relate to the 95- foot cell tower installed by Verizon in May. The borough is currently locked into a 25-year lease with the telecommunications provider, which funded the tower’s installation to replace an aging communications tower used by police and emergency services.
“One of his jobs will be to communicate directly with Verizon,” Neff said.
Concerned residents formed a Little Silver Against the Cell Tower group on Facebook to organize their efforts shortly after the monopole was erected in late May. The group, along with many other residents and parents anxious about potential long-term negative health effects for their children and decreases in property values, have been applying pressure to the mayor and council to find a way to remove or relocate the Verizon-funded tower that currently stands in the parking lot behind borough hall – fewer than 500 feet from Markham Place School and its nearby sports fields.
Several dozen residents attended the July 10 meeting to hear the update and ask questions about the special counsel’s responsibilities.
Asked whether the special counsel would handle issues related to concerned neighbors that might sue the borough or those dealing with contractual obligations to Verizon, Neff responded that both sorts of cases would fall under his jurisdiction.
Others wondered how many billable hours’ taxpayers might find themselves paying. O’Hern responded that, should litigation ensue, it could be a lot of time.
“The goal is first to look at the process – to look at everything that’s happened,” O’Hern said, noting that included whether the borough gave proper notice to the public and those neighbors near the cell tower. “The next step would be communications with Verizon about what the options are. And the third would be litigation.”
Several members of council have openly stated that they didn’t like the look of the tower which was built in such a prominent part of town, and reiterated their commitment to working toward a resolution. “We’re going to get this done,” said Councilman Dane Mihlon, during the workshop meeting. “But we’re better united than divided.”
Neff noted the governing body would ask the special counsel to attend the next council meeting, on Aug. 7.
This article was first published in the July 13-20, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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