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    Tower's a pricey thorn in city side

    For a second time, commissioners are ready to spend hundreds of thousands to dislodge WTAN.

    By JENNIFER FARRELL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 20, 2003


    CLEARWATER -- In 2000, Clearwater spent more than a half-million dollars on a sliver of land owned by WTAN-AM 1340 to clear the way for the new Memorial Causeway bridge.

    The deal included an existing 1,900-square-foot radio station, equipment, and money to help the station build a new tower and move to another downtown studio.

    But the new "Tan-Talk" tower inadvertently was built in the wrong spot, with one leg encroaching 5 feet onto city property. Planning and engineering officials say it stands in the way of bridge construction and could soon cause a major increase in the project's $69-million price tag.

    After suing the station late last year, commissioners now are considering spending $300,000 to make the tower disappear for good.

    Under a proposed settlement, the station would move the 183-foot steel tower and turn over the remainder of its land to the city, an odd-shaped parcel of about 3,400 square feet.

    But the deal is by no means done.

    Station owner Lola Wagenvoord said Wednesday she won't sign the settlement agreement until the city issues the proper permits for the new tower.

    "I will not be screwed by the city again," she said.

    Wagenvoord and her husband, Dave, blame the city for the tower's location.

    They said the city approved their plans for their current tower and permitted construction.

    City engineer Mike Quillen acknowledged the city issued a permit for the tower. The problem, he said, is that construction crews missed the mark.

    Lola Wagenvoord said the city didn't reveal a 5-foot-wide storm drainage pipe buried underground in the area. The drain, once discovered, forced crews to work around it as they sank the tower's 20-foot-deep concrete foundations.

    Amid questions about the land survey, a judge denied the city's initial motion to force the tower's removal.

    But assistant City Attorney Paul Hull said the station and its architect knew about the storm drain, since it appears in plans for the tower.

    "The location of the sewer doesn't entitle them to build their tower on our property," he said. "It's a red herring."

    City commissioners are expected to discuss the proposed settlement during a meeting tonight at 6 at City Hall.

    -- Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrell@sptimes.com ">farrell@sptimes.com .

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