Tower company leaves VA TV station racing for time


A two-year, DTV upgrade project came crashing to a halt last March for independent WSKY-TV Chesapeake, VA (Norfolk-Hampton-VA Beach DMA), when winds (only 40 mph) knocked down a 1,036-ft tower it was building for its Ch. 4 DTV signal (it had been up to 760 feet when it fell). The tower is located just south of the Virginia border in Manteo, NC.

Station President Glenn Holterhaus tells us the tower company, Tower Innovations, refuses to fund the subcontractors to rebuild. The fallen tower was the first one they tried to use helical anchors on, he said.
At the time of the collapse, they were "flashcutting" (turning off analog and switching to digital) from channel 4 analog to channel 4 digital. For a time they were on Ch. 9 analog, as well. WSKY is one of about 100 stations that were not given both an analog and digital signal, as it is only six years old. Tower Innovations was late in getting the construction done and then the tower fell in March. WSKY is still carried locally in the market via cable and satellite full-time.

It’s a race for time, as WSKY’s license could be pulled at the end of November if the tower has not been rebuilt. "We will have been dark for a year at that point and there is a federal mandate in place to not renew after a year…we were originally supposed to have our digital signal on last November," Holterhaus tells TVBR.

They were stacking the tower – the foundations are in, but now, says Holterhaus, Tower Innovations has decided not to fund the project any longer. So that will go to court. Now WSKY is funding the subcontractor crew itself. The project should start up again this week and should take four weeks to complete the stacking, barring any bad weather or complications. Everything is currently on the ground, ready to stack. So indeed, it is a race for time.

"We’ve already paid them and we paid them 90% of the first tower. They’ve also stuck the subcontracting crew that has been working on our site for about 300,000," Holterhaus says. "Certainly before November 30 we plan to have a signal over a city of license, somewhere."

The hope is to use their old tower (the equipment was already removed) in Powell’s Point/Kitty Hawk, NC if the new one isn’t done. If it’s at the old site they will be in analog; if the new site is done, they will be digital. There is a meeting today with the board to decide how to fund everything. A bunch of lawsuits have already been filed in the meantime.

Tower Innovations CEO Dave Nicholson tells us he can’t comment currently, but will be soon.