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Transfer of lease for tower opens old wounds in Hollywood

January 14, 2008

Some township residents express new unhappiness with existing 100,000 watt radio tower

By Lynda Jensen
Editor

Emotions ran high during a special meeting at Hollywood Township last Monday to gain feedback about the transfer of a lease agreement that pertains to the 100,000 watt radio tower located in the township.

The tower has been there for seven years, and was recently purchased by Northern Lights Broadcasting, a holding company of Pohlad Company, which is owned by Carl Pohlad. The land underneath the tower is owned by the township.

In the late 1990s and in early 2000, several public meetings took place over a two-year period on the township and county level, which resulted in overall public approval of the tower.

In addition, the tower is used as the center point for the local 911 emergency system.

About one dozen residents attended to express pre-existing grievances that pertained to radio interference, which affects their reception for television, telephone, and radio; as well as the unknown health concerns that go with exposure to radio frequency.

Township attorney Paul Melchert noted that a total of 85 concerns have been brought up over the years, which were all addressed; but none in the past three years, he said. “We’ve heard nothing for some time.”

Some in the crowd disputed this, while a few said that it was useless to complain.

The lease agreement requires that any complaints be resolved within 30 days of notification. If the complaint isn’t resolved, then the township could send a notice of cancellation to the company of the lease.

The lease has a 25-year span, with seven years being completed so far.

The township receives rent from two different sources, one from the broadcasting company for $10,287 per year, and another from Carver County for $3,000.

Currently, the township is in the middle of negotiating language for a transfer agreement with the new owners. The priority for the township is to make sure the new owner assumes the same liabilities and obligations, Melchert said.

“The township can’t object to the transfer (of ownership) if the lease is being followed,” he said.

Therefore, the township is looking for specific, reportable problems, not generalized concerns that are not substantiated, Melchert said.

“The board will meet Monday (tonight). There’s certain things we can do and there’s some we can’t,” he said. The township board is hopeful that the verbiage for transferral can be finalized tonight (Monday), commented Clerk Becky Burns.

“We want to finalize this thing so that the township is protected,” Melchert said.

Complaints

Many concerns were voiced by residents, ranging from the electronic interference to potential radiation and harmful health effects.

“I’m sicker than hell every day,” Lynn Herrmann said. “You can’t even begin to understand our anguish. Let us live in our homes.”

Other residents reported being unable to use certain rooms in their houses because of interference from the tower, as well as radiation (for example, some reported being able to only use one room in the house for television)

Melchert pointed out that two radiation studies have been done that showed no ill effects from the tower. Some residents have also had their own studies done.

Towers are located in many other places such as Shoreview, Melchert pointed out. “They’re all over the place,” Melchert said.

Residents accused Melchert of not being concerned about radiation. He said his own sister-in-law died from breast cancer and that he took that issue very seriously.

Resident Kathy Anderson pointed out that the language of the lease says that no interference should be taking place at all. Since there is well-known interference taking place, this should negate the lease as it stands, she said.

Residents reported interference with television reception, radio reception, as well as the necessity to use a special telephone in order to get service from it. Special phones have been supplied by previous renters of the tower.

“What do you think is causing the interference?” Anderson asked.

To further complicate matters, the lease holders have changed hands several times in past years.

The new lease agreement should spell out a process that would take place in the case of interference, so that it protects residents who live near the tower, Anderson said. The existing contract does not do this, she said.

Residents have been dealing with the company on a private, case-by-case basis with agreements that vary.

Some residents wanted to know if the lease could be written so that it clearly says what happens when the renter stops paying for cable service that is designed to mitigate the interference. Paying for cable service was provided for by John Linder previously. Linder is CEO of Minnesota Valley Broadcasting.

It was noted that new real estate disclosure laws require that radiation and interference problems must be disclosed when selling property.

“Do you want to buy my home?” Herrmann asked. “Nobody would buy it.”

Melchert said the township can’t renegotiate the lease because it could get sued.

“I think the county totally botched this,” Anderson said, adding that the township was misled.

Anderson also said the Federal Communications Commission didn’t know what it was doing.

“We’re supposed to contact the FCC and say this a bunch of crap?” Melchert asked. “We have to stick to the contract. These other issues aren’t relevant. We have permits that say everything is fine.”

Some residents suggested that they should be the ones to receive the money being paid for rent.

“We’re not getting anything out of this. I don’t feel we should have to pay for it,” Herrmann said.

What’s next?
The next township meeting is tonight (Monday) 8 p.m. at the Hollywood Township Hall, and is expected to finalize the wording of an agreement that will transfer the tower lease.

Currently, the township is working on an agreement with Northern Lights Broadcasting that will transfer liabilities and obligations from the old renter, John Linder.

The township is looking for specific, reportable problems that pertain to the lease (interference, etc.) before the new document is signed.