Council approves new tower for WTGA

By Larry Stanford

August 22, 2014

WTGA Radio will be getting a new radio tower, thanks to a unanimous vote of the Thomaston City Council. The action came at their August 5 meeting.

Station owner Dave Piper submitted a special permit request to install a new microwave tower atop his building at 208 South Church Street. Piper said the present tower next door, which he has been leasing space on, is not providing what he needs for broadcast purposes.

“Over the last year or so I’ve been experiencing a lot of signal loss,” Piper told the council. “I’m down probably to about 30 percent signal. We’ve got it amplified, but we don’t know how long it is going to last. I’ve had some total washouts for the past couple of months. That’s why I want to get this new tower operational, with new cable, and a new satellite dish. I think the old tower probably has some slick cable on it. It has taken a series of lightning hits over the years. That’s why I want this new tower to be approved.”

City attorney Joel Bentley advised the council that this is an unusual request, since there is an ordinance dealing with the erection of towers of this type.

“The reason it is before mayor and council is you can’t have a general building permit to erect a tower of this type,” Bentley said. “The reason is pollution or concerns of interference of towers with others. Mr. Piper has addressed the height of the tower; he’s addressed the proximity to residential structures, which he’s not near; he’s addressed the uses of his tower and also the tower that he is attached to that is approximately 200 feet away. I believe that this tower is 25 feet shorter than the existing tower. One of the things that you may want to consider adding to the permit is a fence around the tower. I know Mr. Piper has indicated he is looking at fencing it off, but the fence would insure that no one would climbs the tower and damages it, or otherwise creates a nuisance.

“This tower is within 1,000 feet of another tower, which is not allowed in the ordinance,” Bentley added. “However, you have to consider the exceptions, which are, is the tower Mr. Piper is currently receiving service from sufficient for his purposes; are there structural issues with the tower that are not meeting his needs; and is the cost deemed to be unreasonable to him? If so, he can ask you to allow him to build a tower that is more cost efficient for him.

The owner of the current tower, Charles Lane, stated that there was not a problem with his tower until he presented Piper a proposed lease for the tower. He said Piper never tried to negotiate on the lease and just decided to build another tower. Lane reminded the council that the ordinance prohibits towers within 1,000 feet of each other.

Bentley said Lane had valid concerns, but that the ordinance has exceptions to the 1,000-foot limit which include is the current tower sufficient for what he needs. Bentley asked if the tower was sufficient and Piper said it wasn’t.

“I’m losing signal. That’s the bottom line,” Piper said. “We’ve got the line amplified. I’ve had signal washout over the past year, and a couple of Saturdays ago, I had a total washout for about three or four minutes.

“I don’t agree with the stipulation in the ordinance that you can’t have two towers that close to each other,” Piper added. “They are not going to interfere with each other. If Charles wanted to lease it to someone else, that’s fine. I don’t think I’ll interfere with his tower or he’ll interfere with me.”

After further discussion, the issue was put to the council. Mayor Pro Tem Doug Head said the needs of radio station was the best reason for the new tower.

“I think the most compelling argument he makes is that it does not sufficiently address the needs of the radio station regarding a washout or loss of signal. I think that is a very compelling argument,” Head said. “The business depends on delivering a signal of sufficient power, and that is not happened. I’ll make the motion to approve the special permit with the addition of building a fence around the tower.”

Council member J. D. Stallings seconded the motion and it was approved with a 5-0 vote.

Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.