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Public radio could get new life tonight

DILLON – When Summit Public Radio received a letter Dec. 17 saying its lease on a translator station for 107.1 had been terminated, it needed a quick, cost-effective solution to keep the county’s most popular public station broadcasting.

In six months, volunteers for Summit Public Radio (SPR) needed to find a new site to continue the signal for 107.1 FM, Summit County’s first public radio station, also known as KUNC. Before July 31, volunteers would need to find two antennae and a translator, construct a new station and meet a budget that supports one paid, part-time employee. At 5:30 p.m. today at town hall, SPR will find out if the town of Dillon’s offer to support a new translator will be approved, as opponents can argue the new, 15-year lease at the final hearing.

“The council at the last meeting gave them the permission to install the (translator system),” said Eric Holgerson, Dillon public works director. “It hasn’t occurred yet, because if anything went wrong at the second meeting, they’d have to take down any construction. But we haven’t heard anything negative, yet.”



To SPR, Holgerson has played the role of Superman. The initial panic set in by Sky High Communication’s withdrawal of its lease for the station between Mount Victoria and Peak One had the organizers and KUNC, which broadcasts from Greeley to all over the state, scrambling. Engineers searched local mountain peaks for the necessary requirements, while radio DJs broadcast SPR’s plight. Having a signal and no translator station, said Neil Best, KUNC general manager, is a major problem.

That’s when Holgerson made the phone call. Having heard interest from other communications companies regarding the water tank at the Old Dillon Reservoir – with no serious offer on board – he suggested the spot to SPR president Marsha Cooper.



As it turned out, Cooper had listed the water tower position as a definite possibility. Through engineering surveys and many meetings among parties, the town of Dillon made its offer. For $500 a year, SPR could broadcast KUNC from a spot giving the station a more comprehensive reach in Summit County than it previously could. Before, the station paid $500 a month for the right to broadcast from on top of a mountain.

“There was an angel out there helping us put this together,” Cooper said. “There’s a mountain (separating all the towns) that keeps the signal from reaching its full capacity. So, the value of having a down-county site is (that) the transmission becomes very, very clear. It really is an important thing.”

Keystone residents, especially, Cooper said, will hear the difference in reception quality.

SPR also owns a translator on Baldy Mountain and pays $1,200 a year for its use.

According to Gary Peterson, SPR’s equipment and operations vice president (and the only paid part-time employee), the cost of the move could reach $25,000. Within five years, Cooper added, SPR will have made that money up by not paying as much to rent a translator station and by not having to use helicopters for repairs. Engineers can drive up to make any repairs on the new station.

“The cost is a pretty good number for us,” Paluska said. “I would say, in this fiscal year, it’s going to cost Summit radio a portion of about $18,000. We did also have a little cushion carrying over from last year.”

According to Roger Paluska, treasurer for SPR for the last seven years, donations bring in around $30,000 each year.

The rest of the unexpected costs, Paluska said, should be absorbed by KUNC, which doesn’t own 107.1 frequency but rents it from SPRs. Also, volunteer help, almost the entire SPR work force, helps reduce costs by donating services and equipment.

If the plan passes through tonight’s meeting, construction on the new translator site will begin Wednesday.

The goal, to everyone involved, is to have a seamless transition. As the old translator loses power July 31, the new translator will take over.

SPR offers three stations in Summit County: Frequency 88.3, broadcast from Baldy Mountain, offers two formats, a mix of jazz and classical music. Frequency 107.1 offers an National Public Radio talk and music format.

For more information, go to http://www.KUNC.org or visit http://www.summitpublicradio.org.

TIMELINE:

Dec. 17, 2002 – Summit Public Radio receives a letter saying its lease for a translator station between Mount Victoria and Peak One will be terminated. This could mean the almost 7,000 local listeners won’t receive 107.1, or KUNC FM.

Dec. 23, 2002 – Lawyers work on extension of lease until July 31 and, eventually, receive it. Meanwhile, engineers scout for new property and draft requirements to keep KUNC alive in Summit County.

March 24, 2003 – Two sites are found. The first, in Ryan Gulch, was denied by Summit County authorities. The second, on the Dillon water tank at the old Dillon Reservoir, was submitted for authorization by the Town of Dillon.

April 9, 2003 – The town of Dillon approves the new translator station site.

July 1, 2003 – The town of Dillon gives final hearing on proposed sight.

July 2, 2003 – Upon acceptance of lease, construction begins, which, according to organizers, should be up and running in about two weeks.

Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 668-3998 ext. 257 or at rslabaugh@summitdaily.com


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