Failing power line threatens Summit County radio, TV stations
Ryan Summerlin January 17, 2013
BRECKENRIDGE – Many of the FM radio stations and all over-the-air TV stations available in Summit County are in jeopardy.
An aging power line that services a Bald Mountain-based site where channels are rebroadcast is reaching the end of its life.
The price tag to replace the line is an estimated $250,000, well outside the budget of the $50,000-per-year nonprofit Summit Public Radio and TV (SPRTV) that manages the site.
“It’s just a fact, either the power line gets replaced before it fails, or we go out of business,” SPRTV board president Suzanne Greene told the Summit County Board of County Commissioners at a recent meeting. “If we go out of business, so go the radio stations and the TV stations.”
SPRTV provides FM radio stations including KUVO (89.7), a jazz, blues and NPR news station out of Denver; KBCO (94.3), an adult rock and roll station also based on the Front Range; KSKE (95.3), the local country western station out of Avon; as well as the Spanish-language stations and others. The nonprofit also rebroadcasts television stations, including PBS, TV 8 Summit, CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox for antenna TV.
Summit County would no longer receive any of the stations if the power line were to fail.
The two-mile power line provides electricity to the translator system site atop Bald Mountain, where SPRTV rebroadcasts FM and TV channel signals that are naturally blocked by the mountains.
SPRTV’s biggest expense every year is maintaining the more than 30-year-old power line, which is suffering ongoing damage due to weather, the freeze-thaw cycle and underground animals in the area. In 2010, a consultant evaluated the line and determined it had five to 10 years left before it failed altogether, board members said.
“If we’re spending that kind of money every year fixing something that’s close to the end of its usable lifetime, how much money are we throwing away?” County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said at the meeting.
The commissioners said they consider the SPRTV’s channels to be important to the county and agreed to support the nonprofit in finding a solution to the problem, first by assigning county staff to further investigate the issue.
Officials also discussed relocating the current rebroadcast equipment to another place in the county. SPRTV representatives indicated moving would likely be more expensive than replacing the power line.
SPRTV board members are working with Xcel Energy on the problem, although they said they are far from reaching any kind of agreement. Board members said they can do some private fundraising to help cover some of the cost of replacing the power line.
“We need to work with the county government to come up with a solution,” Boardmember Don Danker, the organization’s business advisor, said. “It’s very important for us to continue to provide public radio stations and TV stations for the county.”
SPRTV is supported primarily by donations from viewers and listeners. The organization does not receive any funding from local or state governments or the channels it rebroadcasts.