Antenna project inches along

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County assigns ombudsman to determine where key milestones stand

By Carol A. Clark

The Federal Communications Commission has granted KRSN a temporary reprieve from being shut down for non-compliance. The local radio station has battled obstacles to erect a regulation antenna somewhere on the hill for 4 1/2 years. The current antenna in White Rock does not meet federal regulations.

KRSN owners David and Gillian Sutton have until Aug. 3 to make it happen or be taken off the air.

“The extension lasts six months and the FCC said they expect to see a construction permit before this extension runs out,” Gillian said this morning.

The Suttons and their attorney George Chandler have been working through neighborhood objections and procedural issues with Los Alamos County.

The antenna issue remains in the pre-application stage. The county is waiting for the Suttons to produce a site plan, which the county will submit to the Interdepartmental Review Committee (IDRC) process for a recommendation to the Planning and Zoning Commission on the request for a Special Use Permit.

The county requested the site plan last October along with a survey and stated in a bi-weekly report that to date it has only received a drawing of the antenna with its radial underground spokes and a survey of the area, adding that the survey is essential to determine the fair market value of the proposed leasehold.

The county worked with KRSN’s legal counsel to develop an option/lease agreement that KRSN submitted to the FCC as the basis for the recent extension to continue to operate the station’s antenna at its current White Rock location.

County Attorney Mary McInerny worked through several iterations of the option/lease agreement, according to the report.

At a February meeting with KRSN, its attorney, the person KRSN hired to draft a site plan and the County Attorney’s Office, it became apparent that several assumptions upon which KRSN had been operating appeared to be in error.

The erroneous assumptions involved basic access to the proposed site for construction and maintenance, easement issues, use of a defunct sewer line as a conduit for power to the site, the removal of a water tower near the site and use of access roads associated with that water tower removal.

The county held an internal meeting in February to review the KRSN proposed site and to arrive at a set of recommendations for access across the golf course, power for the antenna and concerns about golf course maintenance post construction.

The county asked counsel for KRSN to supply basic information about the requirements for construction, such as required trucks (200 ton crane, 66,000 pound cement trucks), power requirements, length of time for construction… The county has received the information about the type of equipment required for construction but not any specific information about the power requirements for the project.

The county is preparing, with the best information it has been provided, to make a recommendation for access to the proposed site across the golf course and to address other concerns that have arisen.

The county is still requesting information from KRSN to arrive at a recommendation. Once the recommendation is completed, it will be supplied forthwith to KRSN for their consideration for inclusion within their proposed site plan.

The county is encouraging the production of a site plan for two reasons:

• The project cannot be built without a site plan in all events; and

• It seems certain that a site plan may allow the county’s reviewing entities, the IDRC and the P&Z commission to have sufficient information to recommend an approval of the Special Use Permit. The absence of a site plan seems certain to prevent those approvals from taking place as a matter of law and of fact, according to the report.

Randy Smith has been assigned to coordinate for the county the antenna site easement locations and removal of the water tank issues at the request of KRSN for the appointment of a point person for this particular matter.

The removal of the water tank was an unbudgeted item in which Smith and his staff were commended for finding the funding within the existing budget to facilitate its timely removal.

Libby Carlsten has been assigned to serve in an ombudsman role in regards to the KRSN antenna project. She will be in contact with county staff members to determine where key milestones stand, what remains to be completed and to help KRSN navigate the diverse processes in a timely fashion.