Thanks to a grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, local station KSQM has found itself $50,000 closer to securing a new radio broadcast tower.
The station’s new 155-foot tower, built along Blue Mountain Road, will provide 2,400 watt transmission capabilities, an increase of nearly 3.5 times the station’s existing broadcast power. KSQM still has significant funds to raise to complete the project, but this most recent grant has put the station at between $190,000 and $210,000 funds raised. Beyond the initial grant, the trust will contribute another $30,000 if the station manages to raise $60,000 by July 1. KSQM is slightly over halfway to this marker, having raised $36,000.
Currently, the construction site has been graded but kept dormant during the winter months. General manager Bob Schilling said that the next phases during May and June will include digging utilities, acquiring a building permit and collecting soil samples to determine what kind of foundation is needed for the tower.
The station has used a number of methods to get funding for the tower beyond the grant. It has offered 25 spaces on a “Celebrity Circle” to individuals and businesses who donate at least $1,000 for two years and also is raising funds through bunting leasing for the Irrigation Festival. For each single piece of bunting leased through Jeff Bangston, $40 will go to the tower project.
Schilling says that the station has contingency plans if it fails to raise the expected $300,000 by the time construction finishes.
“A tower’s still going to get up and a signal’s still going to be transmitting, but fundraising is still going to be needed to finish the project,” Schilling says.
As of now, the station has enough to pay for the tower and construction, but not the power supply for the extended broadcast length.
KSQM needs the new tower to fill voids in its service area around Sequim and Port Angeles and to allow it to reach as far as the San Juan Islands and Victoria, British Columbia.
Furthermore, the system will help connect law enforcement and public safety transmissions for improved coordination among agencies in Clallam County.
Schilling says that Clallam Emergency Management is trying to get Clallam residents to get information through radio transmissions during an emergency.
While KONP’s tower is the primary broadcaster for emergency information, it doesn’t extend to the eastern half of the county. The new tower would pick up that slack.
In addition to an emergency broadcasting service, the tower could lease space to different businesses and agencies for use, allowing it to become a revenue stream.
The new tower will need to start bringing in money, said Schilling.
“We’re a community radio station, we’re a nonprofit, we can go away. If we don’t find sustainable income for the station, the board does have the option to fold or sell,” he said.