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January 19, 2014

Bee Investigator: What are those tall things in Northeast Modesto?

Those tall towers aren’t FM radio towers, so what are they? And how come Modesto doesn’t fine garage sale owners over forgotten signs?

Here’s a fun question from Art Carl of Modesto:

“Set back on the northeast corner of Oakdale Road and Sylvan Avenue stand three giant red-and-white towers with beacon lights blinking brightly on the tops. I see no identification markers. They certainly have nothing to do with low-wattage FM stations. What in the world is the function of these three huge towers?”

I know the answer, but I briefly entertained the idea of putting this one out there for readers to respond to. I chuckle over some of the answers this might prompt. There may be some who think the towers are part of a plot by Uncle Sam to eavesdrop on us. Others might believe they are measuring tools by groups searching for life in outer space. Or did Santa plant them there as candy-cane-colored reminders of where Modesto is on those foggy Christmas Eve nights? I’m sure you can come up with some really outlandish ideas of your own.

The truth is much more mundane. Jim Mack, the acting chief building inspector for the city of Modesto, said they are AM broadcast towers.

“They are called vertical radiators and are insulated from the ground at the bottom,” he said. Those blinking lights at the top “are covered by both Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communication Commission regulations.” If they burn out, they set off an alarm and “the owner must fix them within a set time.”

This might surprise you: Many radio towers aren’t always owned by the stations that use them, in this case KFIV-AM (1360). Instead, Mack said, “A lot of them are owned by tower management companies.” These particular towers are owned by Price Broadcasting Co. in Atlanta.

If you want more information about these towers or any others, Mack noted, you can go to Google Earth and look up the FCC license information, as well as find out who owns the towers and where they are located by coordinates; check it out by clicking on and then click on the “FCC info on Google Earth” tab at the top right corner.

Or if you just want to look at the towers, go to the satellite view on the regular Google map site and plug in the street coordinates to view them. It’s cool to see the towers this way.

From towers to sale signs

Mack also answered a question from Dolores Roberts of Modesto. She said, “Anyone who has a garage or estate sale leaves their unsightly sign and tape on city poles around town indefinitely. There are so many, it is sometimes a driving hazard. How do we get these removed?”

She suggested that the city impose a three-day limit to remove the signs and fine the folks who leave them up. “Extra money for the city,” she said.

Mack said that city code limits the signs to two per sale that should be displayed only while the sale is “actually being conducted, and only installed on private property with the consent of the owner. These signs shall not be placed on street trees, utility poles or otherwise within the public rights-of-way.”

The problem, he added, is that “enforcement is difficult, especially if there is no address on the sign, since yard/garage sales turn around fairly quickly.”

But, he said, if you see sign violations, you can report them to (209) 577-5250.

And don’t forget to keep the code in mind when you have your own sale.

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