Liberty Twp. neighbors in cell tower fight show little guys can win

It’s a good thing neighbors Mike Tsirelis and Mike Wieland work from home or else there could have been a 36-foot-tall cell tower in Tsirelis’ parkway and directly in front of Wieland’s house. The pair said it was also lucky Cincinnati Bell decided to locate one of two Verizon towers where they did.

“Mike and I are not two people who would stand idly by,” Tsirelis said. “There are many people out there that as soon as they hear, well it’s the utility’s right to the easement, they’d be like ‘okay, that’s fine, just wanted to check’. But we weren’t.”

In early December when Cincinnati Bell’s contractors came to dig up Tsirelis’ parkway for a tower, the two Mikes stood on the patch of grass that had been spray painted as the spot for five hours, refusing to budge until someone from the county engineer’s office returned their calls.

Wieland recalled they even told the diggers they could call the cops if they wanted to. Sure enough two sheriff’s department squads showed up.

“He (a deputy) said ‘is there going to be a problem’,” Wieland said. “We were like, no, is there a good meal down at the jail. I was ready to go. As long as I’m not in with a convicted murderer I’ll be alright. I don’t think it would look that bad on my record, man arrested for standing on cell phone tower.”

All ended peacefully with the installation crews packing back up and moving four blocks over to Snowbird Drive, where they did dig a big hole. Those homeowners were at work during the destruction.

Tsirelis is a franchise partner for Gecko Hospitality, a management recruiting firm for the restaurant and hospitality industry. He was formerly the director of operations for Don Pablos before they shuttered half his restaurants and a district manager for Lone Star Steak House for 14 years. Wieland is the vice president of sales for Mulhern Belting in Fairfield, but mainly works from home. They claim they don’t play hooky together too much.

Cincinnati Bell, who was planning to lease the towers to Verizon, admitted they had a communication problem, since the neighbors were never notified about the towers.

After 11 days of the neighbor’s crusade, the giant communications company eventually backed down, sending the Journal-News this comment:

“Cincinnati Bell and Liberty Township have agreed to look for alternate locations to construct communication facilities that will improve cell phone reception in the area,” Cincinnati Bell spokesman Josh Pichler wrote in an email. “The communication facilities will not be built at the previously proposed locations on Imperial Drive and Snowbird Drive.”

While the two men were the face of the battle as it were, they credit their better halves for working so effectively behind the scenes. Dawn Tsirelis, who is the personal assistant for the dean of College of Education, Health and Society at Miami University, was contacting everyone from state legislators and local leaders to camping out at County Engineer Greg Wilkens’ office until she could speak with him.

“The thing that Mike and I both lack is what Dawn is incredible with and that is effective communication,” Tsirelis said. “She doesn’t have that hot streak that gets the best of you from time to time. She is very calm, cool and knows the correct way to get things done.”

About 100 people showed up at the Liberty Twp. trustee meeting in December and that is where Wieland said his wife Tracy’s real estate expertise really came in handy. She was able to show what the towers would do to property values — an estimated 15 percent to 20 percent drop.

The Tsirelis’ have two sons and twin daughters and the Wielands have two teenage daughters. The pals said the two families didn’t fight this fight alone. The family on Snowbird Drive — who told this newspaper they didn’t want to be identified — was also instrumental, the engineer’s office, township trustees, the homeowners’ association and the list goes on.

The neighbors agree this was truly a David v. Goliath conquest.

“It seemed like such a mountain to climb and you just wondered how you could do in such a short period of time,” Tsirelis said. “The biggest problem was, we didn’t doubt that we could make movement and get things moving in the right direction to halt it, but we just didn’t think we could in the time period we had, based on the fact they were ready to dig.”

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