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Solution to Prairie Public's antenna blockage could come in 2 weeks

The Block 9 tower under development in Fargo is expected to obstruct Prairie Public’s TV and radio signal. Forum file photo1 / 2
Kilbourne Group Project Manager Keith Leier explains how the Block 9 high-rise would block Prairie Public's signals during a briefing Tuesday, July 17, 2018, at the Fargo Theatre. Forum file photo2 / 2

FARGO — A solution for Prairie Public Broadcasting, which has an antenna that the new Block 9 high-rise will block, could come within a little more than two weeks, the broadcaster and developers said Thursday, July 19.

Currently, Owl Engineering, a Twin-Cities based consultant, is reviewing several options and is expected to report back next week.

Prairie Public and the Block 9 partners, the Kilbourne Group and RDO, said in a joint statement they'll choose the option that "works best for all parties."

"We understand the urgency for a resolution and anticipate we will determine the right solution for Prairie Public within two weeks," they said. "We are all committed to resolving the problem and keeping the valued service of Prairie Public Broadcasting on the air."

Kilbourne, the face of the project, has been under attack by Prairie Public supporters who demand the developer fix the problem it's creating.

Prairie Public uses a microwave relay at its downtown headquarters to transmit programming to an antenna in Wheatland, N.D., which then transmits to the rest of the state. The 18-story Block 9 tower would block that beam.

The broadcaster has identified at least three solutions: rent fiber optics to connect with the Wheatland antenna; move the relay on top of Block 9; and move the relay north to the police station.

Kilbourne has said it favors fiber optics, which Prairie Public says is too expensive and too vulnerable to interruption by excavators cutting the lines. The developer has rejected the idea of mounting the antenna on Block 9 for fear of harming the value of the condos on the top floors.

Prairie Public is funded by member support and underwriting as well as state and federal grants, and Kilbourne is owned by Gov. Doug Burgum, though he doesn't control Kilbourne's day-to-day operations.

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