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Community meeting derailed by outside participants

Olalla resident Flo Winfrey, seated, centre, addresses a member of the audience who turned out to Kaleden Community Hall to hear about a Rogers Communications Inc. proposal to erect a cell tower in the community, while presenters look on.

PENTICTON - A group of people opposed to Electro-magnetic radiation got in the way of an information session for local residents in Kaleden yesterday, Oct.29.

The gathering, intended to allow community input and explain a communications project in Kaleden, derailed when a number of outside protesters attempted to focus attention on the ills of cell tower infrastructure.

Rogers Communications held the meeting at the Kaleden Community Hall to explain its proposal to erect a wireless cell tower on Greyledge Mountain in the community.

Municipal Affairs Specialist of Cypress Land Services’s Chad Marlatt explained the project to approximately 40 people, noting the nationwide trend to cell phones. He said 50 per cent of Canadian households no longer have landlines. He said increasing demand for bandwidth caused by smartphone use and the high usage rate of cell phones for 911 calls, at 70 per cent, was resulting in an ever-increasing demand for infrastructure.

The tower proposed for Kaleden would be relatively innocuous, he said. If approved, a monopole 12 metres high would be located in a remote area of the community and adjacent to an aircraft navigation light. It could be painted to be as unobtrusive as possible, Marlatt said.

The site would greatly enhance cell phone coverage on both sides of Skaha Lake for approximately four kilometres to the north and south.

Marlatt said Rogers’current network of four Penticton sites and one Okanagan Falls site “did not meet the demands for a high quality network.”

Marlett had barely begun his presentation before being interrupted by Olalla resident Flo Winfrey, who insisted the project was a health hazard due to Electro-magnetic field emissions.

She was later joined by several others in the audience who challenged and condemned the project, citing research and data of their own. A question as to Kaleden residency revealed approximately 40 per cent of those gathered were not part of the community. One man said he was “only there to educate people about the dangers of RF radiation.”

A woman from Summerland claimed a cell tower erected in the vicinity of her residence resulted in the disappearance of wildlife from her neighbourhood, adding she now suffered from headaches.

Kaleden resident Meredith King said she “was not necessarily in favour” of the project but challenged the dissenters with her own questions. In return, she was heckled and told she needed to be “educated."

Several actual Kaleden residents also expressed concerns about the tower’s location and proximity to Kaleden Elementary School.

Marlett, who appeared relaxed and at ease throughout the presentation, said the tower’s EMF emissions degraded exponentially from the site. He said studies indicated maximum EMF output at the school, Kaleden Firehall and Kaleden Community Centre to be 1,000 times below the maximum limit of EMF exposure allowed.

“Rogers will be investing between $7-800,000 to erect this tower. They won’t do it without community approval,” he said.

Missing from the presentation was Electoral Area “D” Director Tom Siddon. His alternate, Tom Styffe, arrived just as the presentation ended.

Should the project move forward, it will require the approval of the regional district board.

Kaleden resident Bruce Bertram, who lives close to the proposed tower site, shrugged when asked if he was concerned about the project.

“It’s no problem for me. I have a cell phone,” Bruce said.

Kaleden resident Mike Gane said if local residents went to the meeting looking for information, he wasn't sure they got it.

“It’s unfortunate that this evening’s meeting was hijacked by out of town 'semi-professional' protesters," he said. "Kaleden residents had no opportunity to ask questions without being interrupted by them."

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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