Operators Provide Public Service

by Dave Casadei, Independent Newspapers

Some Sun City West [AZ] residents are growing restless over the many Ham radio antennas lining the roofs of homes in their senior communities.

Their angst is two-fold. They believe the lengthy antennas detract from the look of their neighborhood and claim they interfere with other home electronic equipment, including televisions, radios, phones and computers.

“They (antennas) do nothing but lower property values and create chaos in our pristine community,” Sun City West resident Ron McCollor said.

According to the West Valley Amateur Radio Club roster, there are more than 60 licensed Ham radio operators in Sun City West alone and even more in Sun City.

Many residents question if Sun City West’s CC&Rs prohibit Ham antennas and are curious why PORA is not enforcing rules for violators.

PORA Deed Restriction Enforcement Officer Stan Warner said Sun City West has many CC&Rs, which all have different guidelines, but noted PORA is powerless to prevent Ham antennas from being in the community because the Federal Communications Commission sanctions them for emergency purposes.

“In case of an emergency, most Ham operators have generators to backup any electrical failures,” Mr. Warner said.

West Valley ARC member Dave Collins, a Corte Bella resident, elaborated on Mr. Warner’s comments.

“The whole idea behind amateur radio is to have a reserve core of operators to provide service in case of an emergency,” Mr. Collins said. “It serves a valuable service to the community.”

Mr. Collins, who, off and on, has more than 50 years of operator experience, noted a majority of the communications during Hurricane Katrina were from amateur radio operators or “Hams.”

Sun City West resident Roger Matschke, also a West Valley ARC member, noted the public service Ham operators serve is crucial in dealing with national disasters.

He said Ham operators provide a viable communications network during search and rescue missions, tornados, plane crashes, train wrecks and fires.

Mr. Collins agrees with most opposing Ham antennas that they are unsightly, but disagrees they cause interference with electronic equipment.

“The problem is everybody blames every bit of interference on Hams,” he said. “Usually, it is the other way around. Other electronics equipment interferes with Ham stuff.”

Despite Mr. Collins’ claims, Mr. McCollor stands firm in his beliefs and explained how difficult it is finding a compromise.

“Addressing these problems with the Ham operator soon creates acrimony in the neighborhood as the Ham operators have this ‘sanctioned’ right of operating these devices for the good of humanity,” he said. “I have yet to see the benefit.”

Unlike Mr. Collins, Mr. Matschke admitted Ham antennas may cause some interfere, but noted solutions are easily attained.

“There is a possibility of that (interference),” he said. “But almost all Ham operators will work to solve the problem.”

Mr. Matschke said the way home electronics are constructed usually is the root of the interference, but pointed out the resolution is usually quick and inexpensive.

Mr. McCollor recommends residents whose electronics are disrupted by Ham antennas to complain to the FCC.

Residents concerned about possible negative health effects from the antennas need not worry, according to Mr. Matschke.

“There are no more health concerns (with Ham antennas) than there is from sitting in front of the television,” said Mr. Matschke, noting cellular phones and microwaves are also more harmful. “In my two years here I have had no problems what so ever.”

Mr. Matschke also believes the antennas to be unsightly, but noted they must be big to transmit signals.

“If we cut them down it makes them less efficient and the communications network breaks down,” he said.

Mr. Matschke noted residents must attain county approval if they wish to erect a Ham antenna, which he pointed out usually costs between $3,000 and $5,000.