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City pledges key for community radio project

Organizers of a West Side community radio station plan to call in local pledges offered by the cities of Newman and Gustine to meet a fast-approaching deadline for getting the station on the air.

Rick Nagle, who has spearheaded the community radio project since its inception, noted that the clock is ticking on a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) construction permit which expires next Feb. 1.

“The three years allotted for construction have turned into 10 months left now,” reported Nagle. “Realistically we need to be on the air by the end of this year so we have a solid month to report to the FCC our proof of performance.”

Nagle said financial support pledged by the cities of Newman and Gustine in the early stages of the project will be instrumental in seeing it through to fruition.

He estimates that $51,000 is the total budget needed to get the community radio station on the air.

The city pledges comprise a majority of that amount.

City councils in Newman and Gustine have pledged their support to the project. Newman pledged $30,000 in one lump sum, while Gustine has agreed to give $25,000 spread over three years.

Nagle said the project committee will be seeking assurances from Newman and Gustine that those allocations will be included in their coming fiscal year budgets and made available to help get the station on the air.

Newman City Manager Michael Holland said money has been set aside to support the radio station.

He indicated, though, that staff will take the item to the council a final time before issuing the funds.

“One or two council members have expressed an interest in seeing the long-term funding plan before turning over the money,” Holland commented. While the cause is good, he said, the council wants assurances “that there are people and plans in place to make sure that this lasts a number of years.”

In Gustine, City Manager Greg Greeson said the council remains supportive of the community radio project and, while no funds have yet been allocated, the city will honor its commitment.

Nagle said the radio station committee has already started receiving funds from a third public agency pledge. Through Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, Merced County has pledged $7,500 a year for three years. The first installment has been received, Nagle noted.

The effort has also received a $1,000 grant from the Los Banos-based Westside Community Foundation, a $1,000 donation from the Gustine Rotary Club and miscellaneous monies from fund-raisers and other donors.

“Once we have the money in hand, we can order the equipment, have it shipped to Gustine and within a month be installed and on the air,” Nagle projected.

The goal is to be operating by the end of the year to beat the FCC deadline but the hope is to be operating even sooner than that.

Much work and time has been devoted to getting the local station up and running and Nagle and the rest of the project committee are keenly aware of the impending deadline.

“Right now, assuming there are no glitches with the promised funding, I am confident that it will happen,” Nagle stated.

The original goal was to have the radio station operating from two studios in a fully-equipped station, but due to budget constraints the focus has shifted to the basic necessities required to get a station on the air before the construction permit expires.

The initial budget will fund an automated broadcast system which can be used until a full-fledged studio can be developed.

The annual operating budget, without a studio, is estimated at $8,500 which includes insurance, utilities, music royalties and engineering and technical services.

“A studio is not feasible right now,” Nagle acknowledged. “I would like to hope that enough momentum will build within the next year or two that people will be supportive and money will be forthcoming to build a studio of some sort.”

Over the long haul, Nagle said, community radio stations rely on donations, grants and underwriting from local businesses to cover their expenses.

A community radio station is run by volunteers and provides an array of locally-based programming such as public affairs, musical artists, information on community events and activities, local news and other educational programming. The station would broadcast only to Newman, Gustine and the surrounding West Side areas.

A sample of the type of programming listeners can expect from community radio is being “web-cast” from the group’s website, Nagle noted.

The community radio project is affiliated with, but not funded by, the West Side Theatre Foundation.

The project was awarded a construction permit by the Federal Communications Commission when a frequency in this area of the Central Valley was opened for application.

The community radio station’s frequency is 90.7 FM and its call letters are KCUD.

The city of Gustine has approved the use of the water tower for the antennae and the use of space for the transmitter shelter.

In addition to financial support, Nagle emphasized, the project is also in need of volunteers to handle a variety of tasks involved in the project.

For more information about West Side Community Radio or to make donations visit the project online at www.westsideradio.org, or www.kcud.org; email info@westsideradio.org; call 209-690-7247; or write KCUD/West Side Community Radio, P.O. Box 72, Gustine, CA 95322.

  • Rosie Palmme

    A community radio station would be great! I hope West Side residents can fathom the value of the project.