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$10,000 Tower Fine for Cumulus Upheld

$10,000 Tower Fine for Cumulus Upheld

The FCC upheld a $10,000 fine against Cumulus for not cleaning and repainting towers for WBMQ(AM) near Savannah, Ga.
The case goes back to 2001 when an agent said the paint was peeling and faded, reducing the structures’ visibility. At the time, Cumulus told the commission it was getting painting bids and hoped to have the work done by the end of that year. In early 2002, Cumulus said it intended to replace the towers. By summer, Cumulus had decided to transmit from a different tower and would tear down the existing towers.
In 2003, Cumulus asked that the fine be reduced, saying it couldn’t repaint the towers because the lead paint could harm the environment by falling into protected wetlands. The towers have been on the site since the early 1950s and lead paint was used over non-galvanized steel.
Cumulus said it couldn’t find contractors to repaint because it was told they were unsafe to climb. It says the Army Corps of Engineers would not approve replacement on site because of concerns regarding placing anchors for guy wires in the protected wetlands. Cumulus said efforts to move the tower also were hampered by environmental concerns.
The group argued that if its contractors had informed Cumulus the new site was a potential wetland and required approval from the Army Corps, it would have begun the permitting process earlier. Further, it told the commission it’s trying to complete construction at the new site as quickly as it can, and will then take down the old towers.
Cumulus said it had no notice from the FCC the delay was unacceptable; it also argued that a fine provides no motivation to take down the towers.
The FCC responded that Cumulus should have known about the condition of the towers when it bought the station in 1998 and that it is the licensee’s responsibility to maintain them. It upheld the fine and required Cumulus to submit a report specifying the status of the station transfer and tower dismantlement.