VOWR hit with big bill for upgraded barrier around broadcast tower

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on July 11, 2014

As radio station VOWR approach­es its 90th anniversary, the non-profit broadcaster has been hit with a big bill.

The station’s broadcast tower in Pippy Park needs more fencing, following a federal inspection that says it’s too close to walking trails.

Station manager Doreen Whalen said the station is required to build an eight-foot fence at a distance of 90 feet from the tower. There is fencing now, 20-25 feet from the tower, said Whalen, but Industry Canada says that’s not far away enough to protect people from exposure to the tower’s radio frequencies.

“Industry Canada has told us we need to construct a fence that is non-metallic, non-climbing, and we have to take into account snowdrifts, so that means we’re going with at least an eight-foot fence,” she said.

“The problem with a chain-link fence is that there could be redirected rays from the tower, and that would make the fence hot. So anyone who touched the fence would get a good jolt.”

It’s a safety issue, said Whalen.

“It’s difficult to protect people from themselves sometimes,” she said.

“As soon as spring broke we put 14 signs up on the trail, and as fast as we put them up they were torn down and destroyed. … Because of the isolation of the thing, we suspect that there are, I’m going to say young people, and I hate doing that, who go up there at night. All it takes is someone to give a dare to someone to climb that fence, and if they touch that tower, they’re close to dead, if not dead. It really is that dangerous to touch that tower. Nothing’s ever happened, thankfully.”

The walking trails that cut across VOWR’s land in Pippy Park were put there — with the station’s permission — by the Grand Concourse Authority, so VOWR approached the group to suggest cost-sharing fence construction, which Whalen estimates will be at least $22,000.

“We expect it to be more because of the amount of rock,” she said. “It’s difficult to get a large excavator into that site, and you also have to be careful because of the ground radials that come out from the tower. You don’t want to break those.”

The trouble is the concourse authority is also a non-profit organization and isn’t allowed to give funding to another non-profit.

But Addison Bown, Grand Concourse Authority executive director, said the authority’s willing to let the city divert funds that might otherwise go to the authority to help VOWR pay for the fencing.

“I have been assured that the diversion of funds would not impact on any other approved projects,” wrote Bob Bishop, the city’s manager of financial management, in a report to the finance and administration committee.

Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth said he was concerned the authority is given funding that it could give up without any effect on programming, but Bown clarified for The Telegram it’s not that the authority doesn’t need the funding, but that the alternative could be even costlier for them.

“It might be in the best interests of the city to use some of the capital for that, because in the event that their request is not met it could mean us having to divert the trail, which could cost that much or more,” said Bown.

Whalen said the situation is a headache in what’s supposed to be a celebratory year for VOWR, which airs worship services from churches in the area and began broadcasting on July 24, 1924, but she hopes the station’s supporters might also come forward with donations to help defray the fence costs.

“That’s really our only source of funds, is donations from the public,” she said.


Twitter: @TelegramDaniel