NPR radio link jeopardized

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February 25, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Whether removal of a National Public Radio translator from the new Allen County Critical Response Center communications tower will mean reduced reception for Iola area listeners remains to be seen.
One thing is known, however.
“It’s going to happen,” said Missi Kelly, KRPS general manager.
The station, which broadcasts to the four-state region on 89.9 FM, added the 91.3 FM translator to enhance coverage in Allen County in 1995, Kelly said.
A recent letter from Allen County Counselor Alan Weber informed the station the equipment must be removed when its annual lease expires in September.
When Jeffrey Han, station engineer, “went down (to Iola) to repair a piece of equipment (in November), they were working to install the 911 equipment,” Kelly said. “He was told at that point there shouldn’t be a problem, but they would let us know if it was.
“Then we received this letter.”
Han said he checks the tower’s equipment about twice per year.
“I was over there and I talked to the sheriff in person,” Han said. “He was really nice and said he really wanted us to stay, but only wanted us to go if there was interference.”
Han was never told if the NPR tower would, indeed, cause interference with the 911 center equipment.
“The people at George Washington Electronics” who installed the 911 center equipment, “said staying would be fine,” Han was told.
“As far as I knew we were going to be OK.”

KRPS isn’t the only user sharing the tower.
Kwikom Internet service provider also must remove its equipment, but Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative was not required to do so, said Tony Washington, the company’s operations and maintenance manager.
As part of its sales agreement with the county, Heartland required its equipment be allowed to stay on the broadcast tower.
But Heartland’s equipment, Washington said, does not broadcast radio waves.
“It’s a communications path through our substation,” Washington said. “Three substations communicate back to that tower.”
In addition, he said, “we can control stuff from out there. We can read all of our meters in about an hour” using the tower equipment. In fact, Washington said, “we read them four times a day.”
Washington did note that the Federal Communications Commission limits total frequency amounts broadcast from any given tower.
“We’ll maintain our link over there because our frequencies have no bearing on what the county does,” Washington said.
But, he said, the county “broadcasts at a higher wattage than the radio station,” and “the only thing that might come into play is that with all their new (emergency) equipment, (the frequency amount) might be over the limit.”
Angela Murphy, Allen County dispatch director, would not comment on whether KRPS’s broadcasts interfered with 911 equipment reception, or pushed the allowable frequency past FCC limits.
Murphy indicated any such problems would be addressed by county commissioners. None have been noted thus far.

JOHN VOGEL, of Kwikom, said the primary hardship for his company was finding a new tower location. Kwikom was given until Aug.1 to remove its equipment.
Vogel said he was told the county was concerned about interference from other broadcasting equipment on the tower, but that “they do say there is no interference now and that we can stay until Aug. 1. If interference arises we have to remove the equipment immediately.”
Vogel isn’t waiting.
“We’re in the process of getting it off there now,” he said of his equipment.
Because Kwikom is “constantly expanding” Vogel said, “we were in the process of finding new tower sites anyway. We just changed the time frame” regarding removal of equipment off the Heartland tower.
Vogel’s FCC leases are not site-specific, he said, so refiling is not a concern.
Kwikom uses existing structures to mount its equipment, and can use structures much lower in height than that required to broadcast a radio station signal.

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