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A towering challenge - Selective TV faces huge increase in tower rent

One of the three Selective TV towers sits on a five-acre parcel of land on County Road 22 near County Road 6 northwest of Alexandria. (Celeste Beam/Echo Press)

ALEXANDRIA - Although times are tough right now, Selective TV in Alexandria is asking its contributors - and those who receive the service but don't donate - to give more.

And with good reason, according to board members Jim Borgrud and Noel Rich.

Rich, Selective TV secretary and treasurer, along with Borgrud, president of the Selective TV board of directors, explained why the non-profit organization could be in financial turmoil if viewers don't start contributing more.

Selective TV owns three towers - one in Alexandria, one in Sauk Centre and one in Avon.

For the past 10 years, the organization has had a lease on the land for the Alexandria tower at a rental charge of $1,440 per year. The tower sits on a five-acre parcel of land.

The family that owns the land, according to Rich, has turned over the rental authority to parties out-of-state with whom Selective TV has never dealt with before.

Almost a year ago, Selective TV's board of directors received a letter from the new rental authority informing them the rent on the property was going to increase - to more than $70,000 per year.

After the initial shock wore off, Borgrud said he immediately started negotiations with the rental authority, which lasted for nearly a year.

Negotiations have concluded and a four-year contract is now in place. The Selective TV board of directors feels the contract is at the best rate it could get. It is as follows: $10,000 for the first year; $12,000 for the second year; $14,000 for the third year; and $14,000 for the fourth year.

On average, that is more than an eight-fold increase - or about 868 percent - in rental for the land per year for the next four years, said Rich.

"This has changed things," he added. "It has definitely changed our budget. Our budget is out the window."

Borgrud added, "We are a non-profit. We don't have subscribers. We have people who make contributions and some people don't pay."

The board members explained that Selective TV is a non-profit viewer-supported organization that began in 1979 to bring multiple unscrambled TV viewing to the area.

If homeowners don't own a dish or cable television, they would receive only two channels. But with a UHF antenna, viewers can receive the 19 channels provided by Selective TV.

The cost for providing this service is more than $3,500 per month plus any and all equipment purchased for improvements and upgrading.

The organization asks its viewers for a minimal contribution/donation of $80 per year, which the board of directors feels is a lot less than monthly satellite or cable fees.

"We have a lot of people who don't pay," said Rich. "It sure would be wonderful to get people to contribute. There are those who truly can't afford it and we understand that, but there are those who can afford and choose not to contribute."

Borgrud added, "For those who can contribute, please do. Even if we double the amount of people who contribute, it would help."

Other than raising the funds to meet the rent amount, Rich and Borgrud said the options are not good.

They include:

•Dismantling the tower and relocating it, which would cost up to $500,000, providing Douglas County would even permit the raising of a new tower.

The tower has only very limited space or weight limit available to add income-producing antennas, such as cell phones, to it.

•Cease operation of Selective TV when all the funds have run out.

"The reality is if the expenses exceed income, we will have to shut down," said Rich. "Before we would totally do that, we would probably cut channels and we don't want to go that route. This is a public service and we want to keep it."

For more information, call Selective TV at (320) 763-5924.

To contribute to Selective TV, send donations to:

Selective TV, Inc.

P.O. Box 665

Alexandria, MN 56308