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Radio Buffs Try To Save Tower

Radio Buffs Try To Save Tower

Say No Other Spot As Good For Antenna

BY JESSICA BROWN | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER

MASON - It hasn't held water for years, but a 150-foot tall, 500,000-gallon water tower on Snider Road still serves an important purpose, some say.

A group of amateur radio operators is beseeching the city not to tear down the tower. They argue that their radio antenna, which was erected on the tower in 1973, could be this area's last line of communication if a disaster should strike.

"The best solution locally for Mason is to have this thing here," said Bob Reiff, vice president of the 48-member Mason Area Repeater Club.

Mason officials have not decided what to do with the tower, though they've been discussing it for about a year.

About three years ago, Cincinnati Water Works took over Mason's water system and the construction of a $2.5 million, 174-foot tower on Mason Road made the Snider Road tower obsolete, said City Manager Scot Lahrmer.

Now, the Snider Road tower's future depends on the practicality and cost of dismantling it versus the benefit of leaving it up.

The city spent a lot of money to refurbish the tower in 1999 and is making about $22,000 a year leasing a spot on the tower to Sprint. It could cost up to $22,000 to tear it down.

The water tower, built in the 1960s, is the site of the Repeater Club's only antenna.

The 18-foot-long, fiberglass-enclosed antenna allows ham radio operators in a 25-mile to 35-mile radius to communicate.

A year after it was erected, ham radio operators used it to provide emergency services when a tornado devastated parts of the city.

"We're completely independent of the infrastructure. We don't rely on cell towers or phone lines," Reiff said.

"So we can disperse ourselves to fire stations and police stations and schools and shelters and facilitate the relay of messages to fire departments or police departments or the Red Cross."

The Repeater Club says no other Mason location is as suitable for its antenna. There are three other water towers in the city, but security standards of Cincinnati Water Works prevent the group from moving it to any of them.

Defunct water towers have historically been characterized as either eyesores or nostalgic landmarks. Lahrmer said he hasn't received either type of feedback from residents on this one.

"I think most residents don't realize it doesn't have water in it," Lahrmer said.