Sparks fly over cell tower construction controversy

Verizon Wireless plans to build a cell tower at I-75 and East Wooster Street.

Ground was broken in Bowling Green Monday morning in hopes to improve cell phone service, but city, state and university leaders all expressed disappointment in the development.

At Monday night's city council meeting, Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards, as well as State Senator Randy Gardner and Representative Tim Brown all addressed their opposition to the 155-foot cell tower Verizon Wireless plans to build at I-75 and East Wooster Street - the entrance to Bowling Green.

"I wish I could tell you that this being April first, that Verizon's play here is an April Fools joke," said Representative Brown. "But unfortunately, it's not."

"It's our welcoming center there, and I can't emphasize the importance of that location," said Mayor Edwards.

The loop interchange is owned by ODOT. The mayor says the cell tower issue dates back to 2008 - when the city and BGSU first learned there was interest in the location. He says the city and university made it clear they were willing to talk with ODOT and Verizon, and offered a number of alternative locations for the cell tower. Edwards says, to date, they had not received any official response from either agency.

In a written statement, Verizon Wireless told WNWO:

"There is an immediate need in the community for additional capacity on our network. It is vital that we keep up with the growing needs of our customers. Adding this new site will help meet those needs. We've explored all existing options and the current location is the only viable site. We've engage the City and University officials in good faith discussions over the past six months in the hopes of finding a viable solution and plan to continue this dialogue. In the interim, we are working to provide our customers with a solution that will best meet their current needs for increased capacity."

Mayor Edwards says he plans to push for talks with ODOT and Verizon, but if the construction goes through, the city will not provide electricity to the tower.

"If the city doesn't provide electric power to this site, there is no authority under Ohio law for someone to come outside the city limits to provide that electricity without the city's permission," said Senator Gardner.

In a statement, BGSU leaders also expressed their concern and disappointment with the ground-breaking this morning; they still hope to reach an amicable solution.