Monday, October 20, 2008

Tower stolen!

Due to the economic pressure of our current recession, scrap metal theft is on the rise. A certain amount of corruption and criminal activity is normal, maybe even tolerated. But recently we achieved a new low. Typically thieves steal copper and brass first, ground wire, coils, electrical wire and water pipes. These fiends stole an entire radio tower.

Now in this case, the Windber tower was no longer used for radio. The tower owner was negotiating with a cellular for the future use of the tower to provide WiMax. So, no radio stations went off air, but we cant assume the thieves knew that.

The group collapsed the 120-foot tall tower by pulling down guidelines of the tower and yanked it down with a truck. They also cut a number of mounting bolts with a torch. Then they cut the tower into small pieces in order to truck it out of the woods and into whatever transport they had arranged. Police suspect ATVs were used. They scored about $50,000 of metal.

Twenty years ago this was the tower for 1350 WBER-AM and the land was known as the Shaffer family farm. Douglas Shaffer still owns the land. The Shaffer family is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. The police chief said convicted could face felony charges.

The station first went on air in the 1960s as WWBR-AM, which they used through the 1970s. WBER-AM was last owned by Jotocon Communications, which took over operations in 1989. In 1991 they went dark, and were deleted in 1996. It was the same old story, the AM daytimer couldn't compete in the small town with the more popular FM outlets. In January 2004, Southwest Pennsylvania Community Radio applied for a new station to broadcast at 1350 kHz from nearby Geistown, PA. they modified that app in 2007 so it looks like they're pressing forward.