Radio station issue emerges in commission meeting once again
Once again the issue of the county's ownership of the radio repeater on Star Point, and its policies toward which stations are put on the air, has been broached during a county commission meeting. Once again the resolution to the problems involved don't seem easy.
At issue was a proposal from James Linn, station manager for KUSA, who asked that the commission run stations on the repeater that do not directly conflict with his station's music format.
"Certainly I am concerned about the competition to our format. But we are also concerned about the ads that are coming over the mountain that take business away from our local advertisers too," Linn told the commission during the July 7 meeting. "I just think that there shouldn't be anything on it that directly competes with local businesses."
The concern comes from a change that was made on the repeater a couple of weeks ago. A station called KISN was no longer available because of technical difficulties, so the repeater was switched to broadcast a station called "The Arrow." Linn said that that station's format directly competes with his station listenership.
The same issue came up a couple of years ago when the new owner of Linn's station approached the commission to look at only putting on stations with formats different from local radio stations on the repeater. Carbon County, along with a number of other rural counties own repeaters on which the stations are broadcast. Carbon's unit was put up in the early 1970's when there were no local FM radio stations in the area, and has continued to supply music from the Wasatch Front ever since. However, even as radio stations change formats they continue to be broadcast in the area.
"My concern is that there is not a single station on the dial here that plays kids music," said Commissioner Steve Burge. "There isn't a station for the teenage crowd and I have heard that from a number of kids."
Commissioner Bill Krompel asked about the number of stations that are on the repeater. During the run down it was determined there were six stations which are supplemented with the three or four local stations. Three of the stations that can be heard in the area provide country music, two have a young adult format, one oldies (60's and 70's) station and two public radio stations.
"The problem is that out here we need to play a more broad format than other stations to keep listeners. But a station like what was just put on the transmitter eats at our listener base," said Linn. "I am concerned there is just another signal taking up our listening audience and that signal coming has our tax dollars working against us."
But the discussion went on, turning into a question of who should make the decision about what is on.
"We've actually had a number of individuals that have requested "The Arrow," said Commission Chair Mike Milovich. "They are tax payers too. Who do we honor?"
Caught in the crux of the discussion is Frank Brady, who is in charge of the counties communication operations. He is the one that makes the changes to the repeater and has to deal with the physical problems of repeating radio signals.
"My problem is that some of the stations are hard to shield from others so we get interference," he told the commission. "There is a station from Moab that was operating on the same frequency as KISN and no matter what I did I couldn't stop it from interfering. For that reason we had to change to a station on a different frequency so it would be clear and work right."
He also pointed out that having "The Arrow" on the radio gave some continuity with those driving between Carbon and Emery counties, because Emery has that station on their dial.
"But who's to say we should choose what people listen too," stated Burge during the discussion. "Maybe we, as the county, shouldn't be the ones doing that."
Commissioners then asked Brady what it would take to change stations. Brady replied that he would do anything they wanted him to do, but that he would need a letter of authorization from any station they put on the repeater.
There was even a short discussion about cutting off the repeater entirely.
"My problem with that is if you are going to turn off the radio repeater then you should shut off the television transmitter too," said Brady. "It brings in stations from the Wasatch Front as well."
Linn however took issue with that by saying "but there aren't any local television stations."
At the end of the discussion the commission asked Linn to do some research on radio listenership in the area and then come back and present that at a later meeting so they could further discuss the situation.
The commission also took up the issue of federal demonstration fees and how they could affect Carbon County in the future.
"What is taking place in other areas could come to haunt us," said Milovich. "For instance there was a jeep safari that used to take place in southeastern Utah and they had to pay $5000 for a permit to run the event. This year they wanted to do it but it would have cost them four or five times that much. When contacted by the Association of Government, the Bureau of Land Management said they needed to raise fees to maintain the properties they have."
The commissioners then examined a resolution proposed by a state association that would take a stance against such fees.
"This is happening in outback types of areas in the state," explained Milovich. "Some think that it may be another way of keeping people off the land."
After some discussion the commission decided to table the resolution until all it's ramifications are studied.
The commission also took opened bids for the removal of tires from the landfill. In recent years getting rid of old tires has become more and more of a problem for local governments. There were only two bids for the service. One was from Tire Disposal and Recyclers Incorporated for $129.75 per ton. The other came from Utah Tire Recyclers for $90.44 per ton. The commission decided to check with the state division of hazardous waste before selecting one of the firms to handle the situation.