About 80 residents and town officials gathered on the beach end of Rodney Avenue in Dewey Beach July 5 to protest the installation of 5G poles along the dunes and push for their relocation.
Dan Dionisio, chair of newly formed grassroots organization Save Dewey Beach, said Verizon began installing its 5G network last fall.
“As soon as the poles went up, there was a collective pain in this town that could be felt, and it showed itself in every conversation I was part of,” Dionisio said, noting that at the same time, Commissioner Paul Bauer began seeking the community’s help in relocating the poles.
“Save Dewey Beach was born in response to that request,” Dionisio said. “There is no single person in this town that is more responsible for our efforts than Paul Bauer.”
The business community also lent its support, Dionisio said, mentioning Steve “Monty” Montgomery of The Starboard, Jimmy O’Conor of Woody’s Dewey Beach, Regan Derrickson of Nalu and Alex Pires of Highway One.
“These are businessmen willing to stand up, pitch in and fight for what’s right for Dewey and the community, and I’ve seen them do it all,” Dionisio said. “As many of you know, Alex has taken it upon himself to file a class-action lawsuit against Verizon at his own cost and time. Those types of things are only done by a man that loves this town and citizens, and wants to stand up for Dewey Beach.”
Days after the lawsuit was filed June 21 in Delaware Court of Chancery by Pires, his wife Diane Cooley and fellow resident John Snow, the judge issued a temporary restraining order July 1. Per the order, Verizon agreed to not erect any additional wireless structures or utility poles in state right of way or on the beach and dunes in Dewey until the court issues a final ruling on the complaint or an order approves a mutual agreement between Verizon and plaintiffs to allow installation of additional poles.
Dionisio said Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, and Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, have taken more than their fair share of criticism over the poles, which he said was unfair. On June 25, Schwartzkopf and Lopez announced that three of the five 5G poles installed by Verizon will be relocated, and discussions continue regarding the remaining two poles.
“This has been an FCC-led tsunami, and Dewey was hit by the first wave before anyone really knew what was coming or what their rights were,” Dionisio said. “No one is without fault here. Everyone contributed to this problem, and from what I can tell, everyone is contributing to the solution and it’s heartening.”
Dionisio said while citizens are thankful for the work done so far, they are also cautious.
“We need to show our leaders we are not going away,” he said. “We need an agreement ensuring the poles will be moved with a date certain and not just a press release. We are trusting Pete and Ernie and Verizon will do what they say, but we have a healthy amount of skepticism.”
Dionisio also thanked Jeffrey Smith of Dewey Citizens for Accountability for calling attention to the poles long before he himself became involved. Town Manager Bill Zolper is as good a man and leader as can be found, Dionisio said, noting that the citizens and town leaders are working together to solve the problem, and need to be kinder to each other as a family.
“Stop beating up the politicians,” he said. “Stop beating up on the town’s leadership. Work with them and love again. Every person involved in this process is pulling on the same oar right now, and let’s keep that going. There is a lot of pride in Dewey, and Dewey is strong when we act as one.”
Protest attendees, including past and present town leaders and residents, received free Save Dewey Beach T-shirts and refreshments donated by Alex Pires and Steve “Monty” Montgomery.