LEASING A RADIO SITE
By Peter Policani, K7PP
I am sure that many of you have wondered about some of the mountain top sites or tall buildings as a location for your repeater or for that matter just a tower in the center of town.
You might ask, "How do those other guys work out a deal to put their equipment there" or "who do they know"?
Do any of these questions sound familiar?
Some of you have already been through this and know the answers. Some of you have yet to install and operate your repeater or remote base.
I will hopefully offer you some answers and perhaps some solutions to the problems that might be encountered for a first time repeater operator.
The owners of mountain top sites, for the most part, are business people who are very interested in making a profit. Any site owner will charge the going rate for site lease just like a person who owns an apartment complex. The day to day operation is expensive just like any other type of business. And don't forget Uncle Sam. If you owned a radio site, I am sure you would try to populate it with as many paying customers as possible. I know of some that charge as much as 375.00 a month. No wonder some hams have difficulty finding a place for their equipment.
The other instance of course is that many of the Hams operating mountain top sites "do know someone". Many are in the communications business and have access to some of the sites owned by the company they work for. This was true in my case.
This, however, has nothing to do about the hams who wish to lease a site at commercial locations and get the "cold shoulder".
I have talked at length to site owners and asked them why. Most give the same reasons. Hams come in a variety of competence levels. Some range from the PHD to the high school student to "you name it". The big worries are,
All good questions, to be sure.
You may see that being in the communications business and knowing and dealing with those who own a site can be a great advantage.
Suppose there were a way that we could work around some of these obstacles? Suppose we had a single point of contact the site owners could deal with?
I propose the membership develop a committee within the WWARA to be the single point of contact with as many community site owners as possible.
Several problems could be addressed at once. The site owners could deal with a community of amateur radio operators with a known track record and competency level. This does not mean that the individual could not deal with the site owners directly, it just means the people who don't stand a prayer of obtaining a lease would now have an avenue. The committee could suggest methods of construction, assist the amateur with technical questions and finally inspect the finished product.
The site owner would then approve a test period at the site where the committee would address any interference problems and provide an interface between the commercial folks, the amateur and the site owner. Let's think about it.
How important is a lease? Suppose you worked for a telecommunications company and you were allowed to install your repeater at a radio site belonging to that company. Let's suppose you were hurt at the radio site. Since you are covered by the company to be on the site anyway, no problem.
Lets suppose you allowed access to a friend to install equipment at the same site as a favor. Your friends equipment is not properly fused and burns up, filling the building with smoke and damaging other equipment. Or, your friends antenna falls across a guy wire and brings down or damages a larger tower or antenna or damages a roof. Is your friend liable? Are you liable?
What if your friend falls off a tower or a large chunk of ice breaks off an antenna and injures or kills someone? Your friend decides to sue your company. What would you say to your employer? What could you say?
Let's suppose your friend signs a lease or some kind of agreement with your employer. Most leases address the liability problem and either the site owner or the lessee are covered by insurance.
Even if there is one chance in ten thousand, do you want to risk it?
In this day and age of sue happy people, a person can't afford to expose his family, his home or job to utter destruction. Get a lease or an agreement on paper. Cover you bases. You might be glad you did.
Three years ago, the company I used to work for, lost a technician in a tower fall. This company is still in court.
I hadn't thought much about it until I was injured at a site recently. I am currently required to maintain a one million dollar liability policy at the Cougar Mountain site that I sublease. The site owners at some of the other locations are talking the same subject. Site insurance like this runs about 900.00 a year.
Suppose the WWARA as an organization, took out an insurance policy for each site that had more than one ham repeater. Or just one policy covering many sites. Any member of the WWARA would then satisfy the site owners requirement for a liability policy and would be able to provide them a certificate of insurance.
We really should consider contingency plans for these matters. We may wake up some morning and find the number of sites available to us shrinking before our eyes as more site owners place the burden of insurance on the lessee.
One other major factor of great benefit would be the amateur committee's ability to mediate in case of an interference problem involving a commercial station or a co-site problem with another amateur. Some times it is difficult to understand who is at fault or which equipment needs to be repaired.
Now days, many hams may populate the same radio site. We should be prepared to deal with this matter from a technical as well as a frequency coordination standpoint.