Tower Lease Dispute Leaves Jackson Hole Stations in ‘Limbo’

Vital statistics: American claims $500K in back rent owed, tenant says $140K

Rich Broadcasting’s stations in Jackson Hole, WY remain on the air, but the owner says their status is “in limbo.” That’s because Richard Mecham and American Tower are fighting about how much Mecham owes in tower fees.

Rich Broadcasting has a three-tower array licensed to Iona, ID, on top of Snow King Mountain, according to the FCC’s ASR database. The company owns four stations in the market: three FMs (KMTN, KZJH and KJAX) and KID(AM). The towers were built in 1987; Rich Broadcasting bought the stations in 2011 from Chaparral Broadcasting.

American wants nearly $500,000 in back fees, while Mecham believes the figure for three years’ worth of back rent should be closer to $140,000, according to the Jackson Hole News & Guide. The radio owner filed for Chapter 11 reorganization last year and a Utah judge gave both sides until March 8 to reach an agreement; now Mecham seeks an extension. 

Mecham says the towerco has not been in touch with him nor his attorneys; American Tower has said it does not comment on litigation, according to the account.

The tower site is part of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which lays out guidelines for American Tower to operate its structures atop the mountain. Mecham alleges American Tower is not in compliance with the agreement by charging him “excessive” rental fees. He also claims the towerco lowered the power of his Jackson Hole stations by 70 percent without telling him and that the roof of the tower building leaks and the road to it is inaccessible in winter.

The radio owner tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide his research shows the going rate for tower rental in the Jackson Hole area is $500 to $750 a month, not the $3,000 a month he is contracted to pay. He pays American Tower $500 a month for tower rental in nearby Sun Valley, ID, a market similar in size to Jackson Hole, according to Mecham.

March 10, 2017   

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