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FCC Orders Unlit Antenna Structure Dismantled

Despite questions about ownership, the structure poses a significant hazard and must come down

The city of Pine Bluff, Ark., is home to an unused and still-unlit antenna tower originally built to provide radio service from KPBQ(FM). (credit: Creative Commons)

Even though the land has changed hands several times over the years, the Media Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission has made it clear that an unsafe and unused antenna structure on a parcel of land in Arkansas — since been declared a “menace to aviation” — must be pulled down by the current land owners.

There was much promise around this site in 1990 when land owner Lee Ann Kleider granted Colon Johnston permission to construct a 374-foot-tall structure in return for a rental fee of $12,000 per year. According to an FCC summary, the tower was built in connection with the acquisition of a new FM broadcast station construction permit to serve Pine Bluff, Ark. Over the years the antenna and station changed hands several times — first to SEARK Radio in 1997 and then MRS Ventures in 2003.

When the structure was first registered, the commission ordered that the structure be lit properly, including a steady-burning obstruction light at top and flashing lights at specified heights on the structure.

By 2011 it was clear that the antenna structure was no longer being used. Today, neither SEARK nor MRS remain in existence, the FCC says.

The land passed from one group to another, too. In 1996, Kleider sold the land, which is now jointly owned by Lora Lynn Gaither, Edward Wilkerson and Allen Wilkerson. But ownership of the antenna structure is not as clear because Gaither has never received payments for use of the structure, the commission says.

In subsequent conversations with the Enforcement Bureau, Gaither expressed an interest in having the structure dismantled as it is not maintained and is located near her home.

But when the bureau reached out to the three land owners to get an update on the state of the structure in July 2021, no one responded, the FCC said.

In the years since the structure’s completion, the commission has received multiple complaints that the structure is not properly illuminated. In May 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration stepped in and determined that “this abandoned, unlit structure [is] a menace to aviation” and recommended the FCC take appropriate actions to ensure it is dismantled.

Now it is the commission’s responsibility to identify which party can dismantle the long-abandoned structure.

An unlit antenna structure such as this one poses a significant safety hazard to airplanes, passengers and the general public. Because it poses an imminent threat to life, the commission said it cannot wait for the landowners to obtain title of the easement and foreclose on the structure before ordering the antenna be taken down.

The commission therefore found that the land owners have an ownership interest in the structure. As a result, the landowners — Gaither, along with Edward and Allen Wilkerson — have been ordered by the commission to dismantle the structure within 90 days.

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