WILQ rebuilds transmitter site

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A joy ride becomes a prolonged project for WILQ.

On Oct. 9, 2008, I received a voice mail from Engineer Brian Hill and General Manager Dan Farr from WILQ in Williamsport, PA. I could tell by the level of shock and frustration in their voices asking me to phone them right away, that this was no ordinary problem.

What caused the damage? This log skidder.

What caused the damage? This log skidder.

“Tom, I was woken up at 4:30 this morning from the alarm company telling me there was unauthorized entries in the front door and all the windows at the WILQ transmitter site. When I arrived at the site, there was a log skidder, a vehicle primarily used in the logging industry, parked in the building where the front door used to be”. My response was “WHAT THE … ?! Was anybody hurt?” Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the joy riders were nowhere to be found. The building, on the other hand, was a different story.

In the wee hours of the morning the logging truck was hot-wired and then taken for a ride on top of Bald Eagle Mountain, the location of WILQ's transmitter site. The driver had stopped in front of WILQ's transmitter building, swung the truck around 90 degrees, and proceeded to drive the truck straight through the front of the building using the front door as a target. The truck appeared to have stalled in its final resting place, inside our transmitter building. To everyone's amazement, WILQ remained on the air operating from this newly condemned building.

Because the structure was deemed unsafe, and there really was no way to secure it, the decision was made to have WILQ operate from its auxiliary transmitter site down the road. Power and other utilities would then be turned off at the main site.

First to the backup

The auxiliary site consists of a 1kW solid-state transmitter with a frequency-agile exciter feeding a single-bay antenna all manufactured by Armstrong. This would equate to roughly 10 percent of the station's licensed ERP. However, the height advantage of being on top of a mountain paid off as coverage in the metro of Williamsport was adequate. Or let me put it another way, it sure beat hearing static on WILQ's frequency of 105.1MHz for an unspecified length of time. When operation ceased from the main building, the process of shoring up the damage and somehow securing the building, at least from the elements, was the next concern.

A local general contractor was hired and he installed temporary supports so the building would not come down on its own accord. Small equipment in the building that was not damaged was carried out and stored to be later tested and inspected. The building was wrapped in plastic to keep out the outdoor elements, or at least most of them, and the chain link fence was temporarily put back in place as best it could. The real fun would come when we tried to extract the transmitters from the structure.

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