In the News

Station challenging radio tower taxation

By SANDRA K. REABUCK for the Tribune Democrat
September 13, 2009

EBENSBURG — Cambria County Court is being asked to decided whether a radio tower sitting at a remote location is part of the “tools of the trade” and is exempt from taxation by municipalities.

Cambria Radiowerks – operating as WWGE  Radio Station 850 AM “The Edge” – is challenging the county’s taxing the station’s radio tower in Allegheny Township.

The property was scheduled to be sold at today’s delinquent tax sale, but was pulled off the auction block by an order signed Friday afternoon by Judge Timothy Creany. A hearing date was not set on the issues raised in the petition.

The radio station, with addresses in Ebensburg and Goucher Street in suburban Johnstown, has a radio tower on property it leases from St. Francis University in Allegheny Township.

Attorney Tim Burns, who represents the radio station, said the tower has been in existence since 1963 and owned by Cambria Radiowerks since about 1999. But it was not placed into taxation until 2004, he said.

Taxes were paid in 2007 “under protest,” he said.

Tamra Forgan, the county’s chief assessor, said records in the county tax office indicated the property was placed in taxation in 2006. It was put into taxation after the county learned about the tower through a building permit issued by Allegheny Township in 2004 for the tower and two outbuildings.

The property is assessed at $20,460, she said.

Sam Runzo, director of the county Tax Claim Bureau, said the property is listed in the tax sale for $7,288 owed in back and current taxes.

But Burns is contending that under court rulings, a tower is “like a tool of the trade” and not taxable.

Forgan said the county, under state law, has taxed towers for years. The tower, she said, is not like part of machinery in an industrial establishment that would be exempt.

Burns also is alleging that the the tower cannot be taxed by local municipalities because the Federal Communications Commission has the exclusive right to regulation signals and broadcasts.