AM Ground Systems Company


 Certainly a candidate for the project from HELL.

Sometime in January 2006 consulting engineer Jim Stitt called AGSC and asked the age old question, "How quick can you build a ground system?".  It seems that WCIN had filed bankruptcy for $955K and had been handed over to receivers... With only weeks left to finish building a 5 tower array. 

Needless to say the bank and other debt holders were a bit stressed.  The station had been operating ND under an STA for (reportedly) 10 years.  The CP had been issued over 10 years earlier.  The new FCC policy of issuing CP's for 3 years nonrenewable had finally forced the station to get serious about getting the new TX site built.  Sadly they had apparently wasted over a million dollars somewhere along the way and decided to call it quits.  The towers had been up for about 10 years but had been built such that the base insulators were partially underground.  A ground system had been built at the same time but was promptly stolen (or maybe never installed).  Someone had gotten the great idea that high tensile galvanized steel horse fence wire was metal so it would work...  Yea, Right...  There was miles of this horrible stiff steel wire stretched across the site.  It was rusty and at most of the towers was connected via rusty U-bolt clamps.  Someone had actually Cadwelded some of the steel wire to existing copper wire at the tower bases.  The transmitter building was a RENTED shipping container.  Between the time that Jim Stitt asked AGSC to get involved with the project and when we arrived, a bad feed line and worse was located.

We signed a contract with the receivers and quickly got down to work.  February is not exactly the favored time to be building a ground system in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Weather was terrible.  It snowed almost every day.  Finally the temp dropped to 16 degrees and we yelled UNCLE.  We came back home for a week and returned after the weather improved.  This is one of the few projects that we have ever had to leave before the project was complete.  It just didn't make sense to stay around for a week waiting for the ground to thaw.  We returned and finished the project only a couple of days past our projected completion date. 

This was one of those projects that was totally ruled by old Murphy.  Weather, tower locations problems, tower accident, site problems, bad feed lines, crooked contractors, you name it.

Weather...   It was anywhere from 60 to 16 degrees.  Sunny to snowy.  Rain showers to dusty.  All in the space of 2 weeks.

Tower location...  The FCC specifies that all array azimuths be referenced to TRUE north.  Whoever originally laid out the array did so referenced to MAGNETIC north.  In some areas of the country the difference between TRUE and MAGNETIC north (Magnetic Deviation) is negligible.  In other areas it must be calculated and may be as much as 20 degrees.  Cincinnati, OH is around 4 degrees.  Some of the tower locations in the wide spaced array was over 50 ft from the true north location specified in the CP.  The array had to be rotated around a ND tower to correct the 4 degree error.  As you might suspect, the feed lines to the misplaced towers required replacement (good thing but more on that below).

Tower accident... While moving a tower, a tower crew not affiliated with AGSC, incorrectly installed a guy insulator and caused a 40ft section of tower to fall.  With a tower worker strapped to the top.  He was in critical conditions but as far as we know has survived and will recover. 

Site problems...  Whoever laid out the site, just stopped the radials at a waterway/ditch around the south and west side of the site.  This limited the ground system dramatically in those directions.  It was determined that the needed area would be cleared.  After we arrived at the site.  The clearing was eventually done and ended up making a pretty nice site.  The site was built on an an area of dirty fill left from the construction of the Ronald Regan Cross County Highway.  There was areas of decent soil.  There were areas that were under water.  There were areas of solid rock.  Areas with HUGE chunks of concrete.  Pieces of steel. You name it.

Bad feed line...  Just before we arrived a bad feed line was located.  Jim (with the help of a great track hoe operator, Shawn) had dug out the cable pit to expose the buried excess cable.  We located the bad line.  Someone had SPLICED one of the lines UNDERGROUND.  It of course was full of water.  We also noticed that most of the buried cables had suspicious orange and white paint on them.  Someone had employed USED cables for the array. The ATU's were home made and were built in Mil surplus weatherproof 19 inch rack cabinets. We ended up having to excavate and install the new feed lines with the help of Shawn on the mini excavator.

Crooked contractors...  A local excavation contractor bid on clearing the site and doing other work.  He apparently was already in financial trouble and then quoted the job at about 25% of what it required and was soon in deep deep financial trouble.  Shawn was working for this contractor and either didn't get paid or received bad checks for payroll for 3 weeks straight.  Shawn came out to the site to tell us that he had just left the contractors office without pay again and was going home.  I (and a couple of my crew as well) am reasonably proficient with a track hoe.  We had a lot of other work to be doing without spending time digging trenches.  I ended up subcontracting Shawn directly to dig the new cable trenches and as well as a number of other excavating chores.  He is a great operator and became a good friend.

Our ability to adapt amazes me sometimes.

I really wonder where the million(+) bucks went...

Photos will be posted later...



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