“Have you seen a 200 foot tower going by?”
That’s the question WJLX general manager Brett Elmore is asking everyone after thieves made off with his radio station’s AM tower last week, resulting in the station having to shut down.
The Jasper, Alabama, station was ordered off air by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as authorities continue to investigate how and why the heavy steel structure suddenly disappeared.
“In all my years of being in the business, around the business, everything like that, I have never seen anything like this,” Elmore told The Post.
“You don’t hear of a 200-foot tower being stolen,” he added.”
While the self-proclaimed “Sound of Walker County,” still has its FM transmitter and tower, it is not allowed to operate while the AM station is off the air, according to FCC.
“Even though these are extraordinary circumstances they still wouldn’t allow us to do that even though we are the only voice in this community,” Elmore said, adding that the Walker County has a population of about 68,000 people.
The bizarre theft has had a significant impact on the station — which has been on the air since the mid-1950s — and the community it services, he told The Post.
“It’s a matter of safety. If something [significant] happened, listeners tune in and we won’t be there,” he said.
“With our station down, the community has lost its sound and lost its voice.”
Replacing the tower could cost the station anywhere between $60,000 to $100,000, Elmore told The Post, adding that the station’s grounds were not insured for theft.
The theft was discovered Feb. 2, when a maintenance crew arrived to carry out some work on the site. The radio tower was previously located in a wooded area, behind a local poultry plant.
According to Elmore, thieves dismantled the tower by cutting the wires that secured it and also stole other equipment from the property. He said the bandits also stole the station’s AM transmitter from a nearby building.
Elmore immediately reported the theft, but said that local police were equally surprised at the brazen robbery. The thieves are believed to have stolen the tower to sell it for scrap metal.
If caught, the suspects could face a fine or up to 10 years in prison.
“Police have been looking at some video footage but there are no new developments as far as I’m aware,” Elmore said.
Jasper police spokeswoman Rachel Karr confirmed Friday authorities are investigating the incident. In a statement, police said the theft was reported to police on Feb. 2, but the date and time of the crime is not known. Police are seeking tips from the public.
News of the tower theft quickly went viral and Elmore is now trying to leverage that by starting a GoFundMe page to raise money for a replacement tower. It had raised just over $1,300 as of Friday afternoon.
“It’s amazing a 200-foot tower could disappear but also very tragic because it hit a small business and a small community where local radio is very viable,” he said.
For that reason, Elmore insists that a new tower will be protected with gates, locks and cameras.
“I will not spare any expense in making sure Alcatraz seems like it hasn’t seen anything [compared to our facility],” he added.
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