There are new developments in the dispute between Rich Broadcasting and American Tower Corp (ATC) over unpaid tower rental fees for four Jackson WY stations. Attorneys for ATC and the station’s previous owner, Jerry Lundquist’s Chaparral Broadcasting, have filed a joint motion with a Utah bankruptcy court to appoint a Chapter 11 Trustee for the stations.
Meanwhile, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has gotten involved in working out a settlement to the stalemate.
At issue are unpaid tower rental fees due to ATC by the broadcaster, which says the tower company has threated to remove Rich’s equipment from the tower site and shut off its power if the $500,000 in disputed back rent and penalties aren’t paid.
Rich filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last fall. A Mar. 7 deadline set by the bankruptcy court to reach an agreement came and went without a resolution. Stations at the center of the dust-up are adult alternative “96.9 The Mountain” KMTN, classic hits “KZ95” KZJH and country KJAX (93.5)—all Class C1 FMs—and “Newsradio 950” KSGT. Each broadcasts from the Snow King Site in Bridger-Teton National Forest under oversight of the U.S. Forest Service.
Rich Broadcasting principal Richard Mecham contends that ATC is violating the Forest Service’s communication site plan, which stipulates that fees and rents charged by ATC to its tenants are to be “consistent with, and not in excess of, other fees for similar facilities.”
Based on market research, Mecham says lease payments in markets the size of Jackson are $400-$750 per month per station while his payments are $3,000 per month per station.
Hatch entered the fray after Mecham emailed the Senator’s office in Washington, DC, requesting he intervene by getting the Forest Service to enforce the provisions of the site plan. On Mar. 15, Hatch sent a letter to Thomas Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service in DC, and Nora Rasure, the Regional Forester in Ogden, UT, asking why the Forest Service had been unwilling to enforce the plan’s provisions. Hatch has yet to receive a response from the Forest Service, according to Mecham.
“Representative government is alive and well in Utah,” Mecham tells Inside Radio. “It would have been extremely helpful to have received similar support from both Sen. [Mike] Enzi and Sen. [John] Barrasso, being that the radio stations are located in Wyoming.”