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Fargo developers will help pay for Prairie Public antenna fix, broadcaster says

The Block 9 tower is expected to block Prairie Public’s transmission signal for TV and radio. Prairie Public says they’re exploring a few options of how to reroute their signal but haven’t finalized anything.David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — Developers of the Block 9 highrise have agreed to help Prairie Public Broadcasting pay to get its TV and radio signals around the new 18-story building, according to the broadcaster.

Prairie Public CEO John Harris said Wednesday, July 25, that his staff has reviewed a report from a city consultant laying out the pros and cons of seven options and are exploring two of them.

He said he couldn't say how much developers at the Kilbourne Group and RDO have agreed to pay because it depends on which solution the broadcaster goes with and what the actual costs will be.

Prairie Public's supporters have lambasted Block 9 developers for threatening their station

One option that made the cut is mounting microwave transmitters on top of the Radisson hotel adjacent to Prairie Public's downtown headquarters.

The transmitters, now mounted on a monopole behind the headquarters, provide a link to the main antenna near Wheatland, N.D., which then broadcasts to the rest of the state. But the transmitters will be blocked by the Block 9 building in less than a year based on the developers' construction schedule.

The other option is to lease an underground fiber optic line running to Wheatland.

The consultant at Twin Cities-based Owl Engineering estimated the fiber option would cost $580,000 over 10 years. The Radisson option didn't include a cost estimate but would require permission from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Prairie Public had previously considered both too costly but Harris said publicity generated by the broadcaster's plight may help lower costs.

The two sides have been in talks for three years but Block 9's announcement a week ago that it would break ground in August or September without resolving the transmitter problem has angered Prairie Public supporters, who haven't been shy about criticizing developers.

Progress appears to have accelerated with both sides announcing they would agree to a solution within two weeks of receiving Owl Engineering's report.

On Wednesday, the broadcaster praised developers in a news release: "Prairie Public is confident in the feasibility of the options to move forward and is grateful to the Block 9 Partners for solidifying generous offers of financial support to implement the solution of Prairie Public's choice."

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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