April 21, 2010

Samm the ham gets a 60-day extension from planners

Cameras aim at Jim and Samm Markstrom, flanking their attorney, Mark Hazelbaker

Samm the ham got his day in court Wednesday ... well, his day before the Mt. Pleasant Planning Commission ... and won a 60-day reprieve for the ham radio tower in his backyard.

Although his lawyer admitted the proper permits were not obtained -- "Sometimes, there's miscommunication between client and contractor," said Atty. Mark Hazelbaker of Madison -- the argument came down to two issues: Who has the right to specify the height of a ham radio tower, and is the one built by Samm's parents sufficiently sturdy and safe.

The Planning Commission, aware of the scrutiny they were under by half a dozen TV cameras and news media reporters in the meeting room, voted unanimously to give Samm, left, and his parents, Jim and Cathy Markstrom, 60 days to produce documentation from their contractor that the tower -- too tall for their home's small lot -- is safe. Hazelbaker produced a histogram showing the rarity of tower collapses, and the unlikelihood of it causing any real harm even if it did fall, but the Planning Commission is looking for further reassurance, and an onsite inspection.

When it was suggested that the radio tower not be raised to its full height, Samm gave an impromptu lesson to the commission, explaining how lesser height would not only make the tower less effective, but would cause more interference for neighbors.

"Everyone wants a safe antenna here," said Hazelbaker.

After the meeting was over, Samm was interviewed by a number of area TV stations. He said he was happy with the outcome, but -- in a way that only a 10-year-old can -- cut right to the chase: "It's stupid," he said. "We have an inch-and-a-half stack of paperwork." He said he had been "kind of nervous" before the hearing, and said the commissioners "would understand this better if they'd get the manuals."

Mother Cathy said, "They just weren't prepared for the laws of physics." She said she was "really proud" of how Samm handled the hearing.

Links to some of Samm's TV interviews are here, on his Facebook page.


  1. Great news! Congrats kid and keep up the good work!

  2. Good show - keep fighting the bureaucrats. Unfortunately most of this group are brain dead, but not as bad as the Madison group that refuses to terminate a fellow assemblyman headed to jail.

  3. Kid is being used by his parent to not obey te law...

  4. Anonymous 7:30

    I totally agree. His parents should be ashamed of themselves to utilized their disabled child to get what the PARENTS want.

  5. Property rights!

  6. Intersting situation-the kid was seven years old when the parents erected the tower. Did the kid have his HAM license at that time? No! Dad is a professor and engineer but didn't get the proper permits but we are lead to believe that the village is picking on a 10 y/o disabled kid who just wants to talk with others around the world? Not! And Mom and Dad are leaders of the emergency Ham operator group but this is Sam's tower? I don't think so. Local media should be writing about how Mom and Dad used a disabled kid as a pawn in their fight to circumvent the rules in the village of Mt. Pleasant. That is the real story.

  7. The real Story is how sucky Mt. Pleasant is.

  8. 7:27 - SOLID!

  9. @7:27

    While that might be your opinion, talk to the parents and ask them that question directly (like I did) and see their response. Everything is open to speculation, and opinions vary, but I don't believe Cathy would use Samm like that. While things may *appear* to us outsiders to be a certain way, the tower was erected to encourage Samm to get his license and do more with it. The dad's radios are hooked up to the other bank of antennae on the property, and Samm's gear runs off the large tower.

  10. Where does a parent try to harm their child in this? Parents need to show children what is out there for them to learn things we cant rely on school to teach our kids about things also this is what we get in this messed up world and yes this is a lesson for their son.. there are rules and regulations but if we really look at where this country is headed to. Even the big guys in office Never Follow Rules and Regulation they just change it to suit themselves LOL .. so Keep on Markstrom's I hope you win this stupid battle...Go Samm I am praying for ya..

  11. Heather in Caledonia4/22/2010 9:28 AM

    Here's the idea I posted on the Journal's article: Let's see the folks who run The Dump step up and get some great publicity. They could plant that 62 foot pole on the top of the landfill. The family could then have a 10 foot pole in their backyard to use as a relay (is that the right term?) - think of the reception they'd get! I suppose The Dump people can't do that because it would be setting some sort of precedent and other people would then want in on it, too... things could probably get out of hand. Anyway, I think that would be a nice thing to solve the problem for the family, the neighbors and make The Dump company look nice for a change.

  12. 8:12 You are right! Mt Pleasant has some problems and do have areas where they do suck. But the village has four good trustees in Albeck, Manning, Feest and Garski, give them a chance to improve things in the village. The suck portion you may be talking about is from the old guard that is still in office and still running the show.

  13. The problem isn't just that they didn't request a permit before building their tower. It is that they built a tower too tall for the building code. If they had requested a permit, it would have been denied. And they could have then tried to get an exemption before they built.

    It is hard to believe that the father who is an ham operator, head of the local group and an engineer, didn't realize that there could be a code problem with a tall tower on a small lot. He should have determined what was permitted before he built. The tower is twice as tall as the code allows, for a lot that size.

  14. Tracy Jordan4/22/2010 11:03 AM

    Right on 7:27! It's not Samm's tower, Jim is heavily involved in the Racine County Amateur Radio Emergency Service and Cathy is very involved in the Volunteer Center of Racine County. The tower is for them! Their son has just happened to join them in their hobby.
    The father is an MSOE grad and works as a telecommunications engineer for Verizon. He has given free amateur radio classes to the public before, but Im not sure where that would qualify him to be a real "professor". He is smart though, I'll give him that.
    It's amazing what you can find on google ;) This radio tower is a project that is intended for Jim's interest, and lately Samm happens to be using the radio too. The radio tower was never meant for Samm to help him improve his condition.
    James Markstrom is smart, I'll give him that. This was all planned by him. He loves the tower so much he knew that if he got his son involved he could use that emotional plea to allow him to keep the tower.
    The way I and some others see it, he basically used his son as a tool to get his own way.
    Keep in mind that I think the Markstrom's should be able to keep the ham radio, but with the stipulation of having the tower lessened in height. What they do is a good service, they just should have gone through the proper permitting procedures to have it all done legally.

    It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  15. Physics? I'll give you a lesson in Physics -
    An outdoor wireless network system antenna should be installed at it's optimal height. If it's too low then it won't be able to properly 'see' it's partner and the connection will suffer. If it's too high then it's going to 'see' out over the horizon to a greater distance and pick up more environmental background noise and interference. "Higher" is not "better"

    These people are a crock of $hit. The mom even stated on TMJ4 that the tower would withstand an F4 tornado. really? 220 MPH winds? I thought it was rated at 70 MPH...

  16. Kenneth Parcell4/22/2010 11:41 AM

    11:21 - Yeah I saw that too, she said it could withstand hurricane force winds of up to 74 mph in one interview, then I heard her say it could withstand an F4 tornado! Depending on which scale you use, an F4 tornado is in the range of 208-260 mph, and the new scale of EF4 is 166-200 mph. On either scale, no backyard radio tower can take that kind of force! She mispoke or really doesn't know what she's talking about...

  17. The village of Mt. Pleasant is at fault. If you want to paint your business, put up a sign, put up a tower. Mt. Pleasant has been horrible to people just trying to use their own property. Lets hope with the new trustees voted in this will change, but their track record is dismal.

    I hate buying gas in Mt. Pleasant... Why - I can't easily see what it's going to cost me. Now I can understand not wanting ugly signs all over the place, but Why do the Gas Prices have to be on the ground?! I don't buy much gas in Mt. Pleasant, because I can't see it's a deal when driving by... Sorry for the Station Owners - One example.

    I get my Ice Cream from that place on HWY 20 --- The red white and blue one. - Another Example

    Why does the Village think it can micromanage the every minutia of what someone does on their own property?

    The Village deserves what it gets... If you could grow radio towers with seeds, I'd be dropping them out of an airplane over Mt. Pleasant.

  18. ... Village leaders say they didn't have the proper permits to build 62-foot-tall ham radio tower that sits in their backyard in Mount Pleasant.

    "Everything had gone in, to our knowledge very legally" Catherine says.

    Neighbors aren't happy either.

    Eric Scott lives directly next door.

    "They started off with just a little antenna which was fine, then the monstrosity came about the big tower and that's the one we were really worried about. We do see it rocking back and forth," Scott said.

    "We have a 6-year-old son and he plays in the backyard, and if that were to come down...," Scott added. ...


  19. The kid has nothing to do with this story. It may have helped his condition, which seems minimal anyways, but it was still put in illegally. People need to stand up and take responsibility for their actions, and stop using their son. They are only teaching him to exploit his disability, if he has one, and that its ok to do illegal things.

    and to 11:44 - you are an ignorant numbskull. The Dairy Queen is no longer red, white, and blue because a new owner moved in years ago. And as for the gas signs, I have no problem. They are just as small in the City of Racine, Caledonia, Kenosha, all over the area, then again I have the vision of an Eagle. Perhaps you should get out of your gas hoggin SUV and drive an electric car if you are so concerned about the prices...

  20. Everett Johnson4/22/2010 1:16 PM

    Dear Dumb@ss,

    I live in West racine, and the last thing I want to God Dam see is a gigantic electronic gas station sign at the corner of hwy 20 and west blvd...Dam gas stations, keeping people up late at night. If you cant read the gas prices, maybe they should be in braille, or let your wife drive.

  21. The staff in Mount Pleasant will drive around the village looking for things on your property to cite. Like wood for fireplaces drying on the side of garages,barns or outbuildings. Move or be cited, and it's happened. Farm equiptment near property lines or wood pole fences on your property, cite. The staff looks for things to keep or retain there job. Leave us alone.

  22. By all appearances, a very nice boy. Let him keep his tower - but the parents need to do it the right way. And they should get rid of the right-wing nut case of an attorney.

  23. Mount Pleasant cites people for anything they can find so they can pay for their over budget Village Hall.

    They try to make it look like taxes are low and then fine, cite or permit someone in to paying more.

  24. 3:29, you should be happy they can pay for part of this with a $10 million donation, otherwise that would be on your back as well. Doesn't anyone who lives here have community pride?

    Everett Johnson - Braille? WTF?

  25. The parents give all Ham Radio operators a black eye. Thanks for all the great publicity Jim and Cathy. Use your kid as a pawn and shield to cover your bonehead errors. It's NOT Samm's tower... And, turn in your credentials as ARES Emergency Coordinator. You don't deserve to hold that position.

  26. Exploiting kids is horrible.