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Borough reaches deal on water tower

December 14, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council on Monday night ratified a three-part deal with the owner of a radio station to end the stalemate that has lasted more than two years on construction of a 2-million-gallon elevated water tank.

The agreement with M. Belmont VerStandig Inc., the owner of WCBG-AM, calls for the borough to pay $590,000 for the 8.2-acre transmission tower site adjacent to the water tower site in the Chambers-5 Business Park. As a result, the borough will not pursue a condemnation procedure to take the land by eminent domain, according to the agreement.

Construction of the 150-foot water tower to serve the southern end of the borough was halted in October 2002 after workers for the contractor began receiving shocks and burns. The problem was determined to be re-radiation of the radio signal energy that was being absorbed by the steel structure.

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The nearest of the four radio towers was 193 feet from the water tower site, according to Franklin County Court documents. Earlier this year, Judge Carol Van Horn ruled the borough could go ahead with condemnation proceedings, but that the broadcaster could pursue its argument that the Federal Communications Commission had jurisdiction.

In those court proceedings, VerStandig had sought an injunction to prevent the land from being condemned by the borough, according to court records.

A tentative agreement with VerStandig was reached Dec. 2 and the radio station, one of several in the area owned by the broadcaster, ceased on Sunday, Dec. 5, according to borough attorney Thomas Finucane.

The borough will receive $180,000 in financial assistance from the engineering firm and contractor toward the purchase of the land, Finucane said.

CB&I Constructors Inc., the company that was building the water tower, entered into an agreement with the borough that it would reduce its contract price by $45,000 as part of the overall settlement.

Gannett Fleming Inc., the engineering firm on the water tower project, entered into another agreement with the borough to pay Chambersburg $135,000 that will be used toward the settlement with VerStandig.

"Everybody agrees that they are not going to sue each other," Finucane said of the agreements.

Borough Manager Eric Oyer said the contract price on the water tower is approximately $1.5 million. Finucane said the agreement with CB&I calls for it to be completed no later than Dec. 6, 2005.

"It's about time we got some closure here," Council President William McLaughlin said. "We have reached the point where we can get this thing done."

McLaughlin said he believed the threat of eminent domain helped bring about the agreement.

WCBG broadcasts CNN headline news and NASCAR events, among its programming. Finucane said he believed VerStandig planned to switch that programming to another frequency the company owns.

Settlement on the purchase of the radio tower site is set for Jan. 11, according to the agreement.

Station owner John VerStandig did not attend Monday's council meeting.

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