JASPER, Ala. –
The theft of a massive radio tower silenced what was once the voice of a small Alabama town and surrounding county, the radio station’s general manager said.
A thief or thieves made off with the 61-foot tower and shut down WJLX radio in Jasper, Alabama. So far, no one has been arrested.
“Our station’s slogan is the sound of Walker County, and now that our station is down, the community has lost its sound and its voice,” WJLX General Manager Brett Elmore told The Associated Press. “It hurts and it hurts our community.”
The theft was discovered on February 2 when a maintenance team arrived at the wooded area where the tower once stood and found it gone. They also discovered that every piece of broadcast equipment stored in a nearby building had also been stolen.
“To break into my building and steal all my equipment and tower?” said Elmore. “Hell, leave the tower to me – it’s the most expensive thing to replace.”
Elmore said he suspects the tower’s guy wire was cut first, which would have brought the structure to the ground. Then he believes he was cut into smaller pieces and dragged away. “A couple of pretty simple tools that you can get at Home Depot could cut that down in no time,” he said.
The station did not have insurance for the tower or equipment and estimated it would take $60,000 to $100,000 to rebuild. “We’re a small market and we don’t have that much money,” he said.
Elmore has heard from people across the country hoping to help, and a GoFundMe page has been set up online to collect donations. He said he was reluctant to start fundraising, but a friend told him to put his pride aside if people were willing to help. By early Friday afternoon, more than $1,100 had been raised.
The AM station has been on the air since the mid-1950s, and Elmore has been in the radio business for a quarter of a century, carrying on the work his father did at the station before him.
“It’s more than a job and a radio,” he said. “It’s just part of who I am.”
Jasper police are investigating, Elmore said. A representative for the police department did not immediately return a message Friday.
Elmore now hopes to somehow get back on the air.
“We’ll make it,” he said. “I have to keep the faith that we can make it.”