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The Case of the Naked Tower

Mick Rapeer is director of engineering for Connoisseur Media Pennsylvania. He’s been a broadcast engineer for over 20 years and been at Connoisseur for one year (18 with the previous station owners.)

He recently encountered something he had never seen or heard of before, and provides Radio World with some choice details. We’re a family publication so some editing was involved.

“One of my remote controls called me and the status was an audio alarm. That usually means there’s no audio going to the transmitter. I was figuring it was another Microsoft Windows error, which is usually the case,” he began innocently enough.

“So I logged into the automation system to look and it was going about its business playing. I then logged onto the WSBG website and the audio was playing there … OK, somewhere the audio stopped getting to the transmitter. I followed the audio chain and everything looked good all the way to the STL transmitter, which had audio and RF,” he explained. “Hmmm, has to be the STL receiver at the transmitter site.”

So Rapeer had to drive up the mountain to the transmitter site. Aren’t all troublesome transmitters on the tops of mountains?

Rapeer returns to the tale, “I drive up the mountain and I meet a tower crew coming down the mountain. I ask the guys what they were doing up there. I dreaded the answer, ‘We have a work order to decommission the tower.’”

“I nervously asked, ‘What tower?’” Rapeer said. He had a bad feeling. “The one all the way at the top” was the crew’s response.

Still hoping for the best, Rapeer inquired further, “Whoa! Hold on, which one? There a couple towers up there.”

“The small 80-foot one,” was the answer.

“What! What did you do?” he asked with a sinking feeling.

“We took everything off the tower except one that was hot,” the tower gang informed him.

Rapeer now was more irritated than anything, “You did what? We’re now off the air!” he shouted.

He drove the rest of the way to the TX site and sure enough, everything but the main antenna had been removed from the tower.

“I have never seen this before where a tower company takes everything off the tower, while you’re on the air, and doesn’t even tell you that they are going to do it!” he exclaims.

Rapeer made several calls. The tower manager claimed to be as surprised as Rapeer at what had happened. “Have you ever heard of such a thing? A tower company sends a crew to a tower after hours to remove parts and doesn’t tell the tower manager?”

Finally, “after a lot of expression,” Rapeer got some response and the crew was sent back to the tower.

But it wasn’t that easy. “The coaxes were all cut in different lengths and one of the antennas was cut up. I had them get the two longest pieces of coax and put connectors on them and get the STL antenna back where it was. After two more hours we were back on the air. Now I have to get that tower company to put back everything with new coax.”