NEWPORT, Vt. (AP) – The parish council at the St. Mary Star of the Sea Church has voted 13-1 in favor of allowing Verizon Wireless to install cellular communication equipment in the church’s two steeples.

The decision reaffirms one the council made last year that led church and diocese officials to sign a contract with Verizon to install the equipment.

But the move upset some members of the parish, who felt the cellular communication equipment could pose a health risk or that it was inappropriate for a church to rent out space to a for-profit company.

Mike Marcotte, a member of the parish council, said the council vote was to recommend that the Diocese of Burlington, which includes all of Vermont, go forward with the contract.

“I believe the diocese will follow our recommendation,” Marcotte said.

The diocese has already signed the contract for $18,000 a year from Verizon to the local church, and church leaders at a recent city meeting said they intended to honor the contract unless the parish council requested otherwise.

Verizon had threatened to sue, saying the contract was made in good faith with the church.

Cellular companies are encouraged to install equipment in existing buildings and towers in Vermont to avoid building new ones.

Some opponents vowed to leave the church if the council reaffirmed the contract and to challenge Verizon in court.

Verizon’s city planning permit is expected to be appealed in Vermont Environmental Court.

There is no word on when the equipment will be installed.

AP-ES-03-26-04 1413EST

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