November 6, 2001

After further review, the original decision on the field stands: The state will build its microwave transmission tower on the site of the former Woodshaven-Kruse School on Darley Road.

The Claymont Coalition had asked state officials to look at a replay of the process by which they quietly decided that the tower -- which will become part of the statewide 800-megahertz emergency radio system -- should be located on an acre or so of the 22-acre school property. The rest is to be deeded, as originally planned, to the New Castle County parks system for development for 'passive recreation'.

Gregory Patterson, press secretary to Governor Ruth Ann Minner, in a letter to coalition president George Lossé and County Councilman Robert Weiner cited six reasons why an alternate site offered by the Church of the Ascension would not be acceptable.

"The process for choosing a tower site in Claymont was driven primarily by the technical requirement of finding the best signal strength for the largest area, while also factoring in the speed at which a site could be developed, feasibility and cost. These criteria all support the choice of Woodshaven-Kruse," he wrote.

Lossé said that, if the community had been aware earlier of the desire to put a tower in the area, "we could have found them a more suitable site [but] because of safety considerations for our police and firefighters we will accept the Woodshaven-Kruse site."

As part of its agreement with the county, the state demolished the one-time school buildings and those which constituted a women's prison and cleaned up asbestos and other environmental problems. That work was completed, according to a state source, in late July and legal documents for the transfer of ownership of the property were prepared. But unspecified county officials reportedly agreed to hold up on the actual closing until the state decided whether to put a tower there. It was left up to the state to publicly disclose plans for what early-on was expected to be a controversial project and proceed through the county's regulatory process for such facilities.

When Delaforum inquired into reasons for the delay in moving ahead with the park -- the most recent plan was to hold a media event this autumn to mark the end of more than a decade of up-front and behind-the-scenes deliberations on the future of the property on which the school for 'wayward girls' stood -- Patterson disclosed plans for the tower, at first referring to it as a "piece of equipment."

Claymont community activists bristled at being excluded from the decision-making loop and called a public meeting at which the Church of the Ascension's offer of some of its unused land about a half mile from the park was put forth.

Contrary to one published account, the coalition did not object to having a transmission tower for the radio system in the community. As it happened, two volunteer firefighters from the Claymont company had been endangered when their radio communications failed while inside a burning building. That was one of the more serious problems which have troubled the unified radio system. It and the current wave of intense public support for firefighters and rescue workers led the coalition and others to support erecting a tower but proposing that other locations be considered as being less detrimental to the public's using the park. Some people fear ill-effects from coming into close proximity with microwave transmission.

In his letter, Patterson cited these reasons for favoring the Woodhaven-Kruse site over the Church of the Ascension site:

Woodshaven-Kruse would provide 94 square miles of coverage versus 85 square miles from the church, according to computer modeling.

The church site is not as high and therefore provides less coverage.

The church site is not wide enough to meet the county's setback requirements for a tower that will be 270 feet tall.

The church site is heavily wooded and that not only prevents conducting a field test but also would result in its taking longer and costing more to erect the tower there.

Changing the proposed site at this time would add a month or two to construction time and because there is no longer summer foliage field testing would not be as accurate on a year-around basis as the test conducted last July.,

The church site borders a 100-year floodplain.

Consequently, he wrote, "the state intends to proceed with placement of the tower at the Woodshaven-Kruse property."

"We will move quickly to separate land needed for the tower and complete transfer of the rest of the parcel to New Castle County for use as a park -- something the Claymont community needs and has been patiently waiting for."

© 2001. All rights reserved.

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