100-foot tower removed from top of SciLi

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Sciences Library – the top of which boasts the highest point in Rhode Island – shrunk by 100 feet earlier this month when a tower containing miscellaneous antennae was removed from the roof.

The tower, which was erected in November 1972, included antennae used by many groups on Brown’s campus; however, most of these were auxiliary. Brown EMS and WBRU both had backup antennae on the roof.

Administrators first considered removing the tower about a year ago when they met with an engineering company to discuss bringing the tower into compliance with safety requirements, according to Robert Perreira, the associate director of telecommunications for Computing and Information Services.

An evaluation of the tower’s structure concluded that the tower “did not meet current wind load and ice load specifications,” Perreira said.

Perreira said the decision to remove the tower was based mostly on safety concerns, as a strong storm could have severely damaged or toppled the tower. “It was also an eyesore to the outside community,” he said.

Cost was an additional factor. Bringing the tower up to current standards would have been three times as expensive as removing it.

Moreover, because the tower was not a “revenue producing” entity and functioned primarily as a backup, there was “no business case to bring it into specifications,” he said.

WBRU had an antenna on the tower but did not use it as its primary transmitter. “When Brown asked us if we could take it down, we had no objections,” Elaine Kim ’06, WBRU’s general manager and vice president, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

In February 2004, two new transmitters – a main and a subsidiary antenna – were put up in East Providence for the radio station, according to Dennis Knudsen, WBRU chief engineer.

The WBRU antenna on the SciLi tower had not been used in three years, so the tower’s removal “will really have no bearing on (WBRU),” Knudsen said. “The only thing we’re lacking is a backup location for a transmitter.”

Perreira said that in recent years, most of the antennae on the tower had either become obsolete or had been moved to other locations in East Providence. At the time the tower was dismantled, only a few functioning subsidiary antennae remained on the tower.

Rhinehart Tower Services, a company based in Columbus, Ohio, was supposed to begin dismantling the tower on Sept. 27, but because of bad weather, work was temporarily put on hold until the next day, said Ginine Hefner, business assistant at the Sciences Library.

Perreira said that after removing all the antennae from the tower, Rhinehart cut the tower into six-foot sections from the top down. These pieces were then lowered over the side of the SciLi into a truck and driven to a scrap yard.

The few remaining functioning antennae were repositioned on the roof of the SciLi, Perreira said.

The five-man crew from Rhinehart Services completed the tower’s removal on Oct. 3.