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Lookout Above

At first glance, it looked like there would be a major turn in the long-running feud between local television outlets and residents of the Lookout Mountain area over the construction of a digital TV tower there ("Something in the Air," April 6). In the October 18 Canyon Courier, an article titled "Denver's Channel 6 Plans to Relocate Transmission Tower" quoted James Morgese, Channel 6's general manager and the frontman for the Lake Cedar Group, a collective of area broadcasters, as saying that his station had decided to remove its existing tower from Lookout Mountain. These remarks suggested that Lake Cedar -- which had sued Jefferson County for blocking the construction of the tower and asked the Federal Communications Commission to intervene on its behalf (actions that are still pending) -- had concluded that it was bound to lose on both fronts and needed to start mulling over its options.

The rub? Morgese says the Canyon Courier reporter misunderstood him. Channel 6 will have to move to another tower eventually, he concedes, but he'd prefer that it be to the digital edifice on Lookout Mountain, and he remains hopeful that such a structure will be approved. "I'm still vested in Lake Cedar," he vows. Yet Morgese also confirms that Channel 6 is actively considering other sites, even though broadcasters have long maintained that none are acceptable. Among the motivations for doing so are county regulations forbidding modifications to the current tower. Morgese says these rules tie his hands when it comes to dealing with such problems as radiation hot spots -- locations where radio frequency emissions known as RF, which some believe can cause cancer and other maladies, exceed levels approved by the FCC.

The latest overages, which were discovered in late September and led to a zoning complaint against Channel 6, have been blamed on FM antennas that belong to public-radio providers KCFR and KUVO. According to Sean Nethery, vice president of communications and marketing for Colorado Public Radio, which encompasses KCFR, the stations repaired the antennas last summer in an effort to eliminate hot spots, and testing afterward indicated that they'd been successful. But last month engineer Al Hislop, a Lookout Mountain resident who's part of Canyon Area Residents for the Environment, or CARE, discovered another patch of ground that made his RF survey meter's needle jump into the danger zone. Subsequent measurements by an FCC representative confirmed Hislop's numbers, and to get back into compliance with the standards, KCFR and KUVO had to reduce their power to 30 percent of maximum. In KCFR's case, that means the 50,000-watt station is now operating at 15,000 watts.

Kathryn Isenberger, secretary treasurer for Bear Creek Development, believes that KCFR's problems would be over if its tower was on a telecommunications site on Mount Morrison that's owned by her company, and she confirms that Channel 6 has requested engineering data to see if planting it there would be feasible. Such a move might not be as simple as it seems. Bear Creek Development was turned down by Jeffco when the company asked to increase the size of a tower already on its land from 60 feet to 300 feet. But any fight this might start can't be worse than the one on Lookout Mountain.

"The situation there is really volatile," Morgese says. "So we're just trying to do the best we can to figure out a solution that will keep us on the air."

 
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