The creation of a community radio station in Boulder Creek appears to be quickly approaching.
The Boulder Creek Recreation and Park District board of directors voted unanimously during a special meeting Tuesday, July 30 to approve an agreement between the district and Common Frequency, Inc. that would have the district purchase KBCZ 90.1 FM, a high-power radio frequency in Boulder Creek.
Terms of the deal are not yet finalized, but the district agreed in principle to pay up to $12,000 for KBCZ which includes a $3,000 down payment to get the process started.
Board member Tess Fitzgerald negotiated the agreement with the services of Michael Couzens, a Berkeley-based attorney who specializes in FCC licensing issues.
Not a done deal
KBCZ, which has been silent and inactive for more than a year, is limited to broadcasting in Boulder Creek and Brookdale.
According to Fitzgerald, Common Frequency must get the station back on the air by Aug. 11 at midnight, or it will go dark without a license for the foreseeable future.
“They have a large mountain to climb to renew and transfer (the frequency),” Fitzgerald told the board. “But they felt confident they would be able to do the renewal, transfer and assignment (to Boulder Creek Recreation).”
To go live, Common Frequency will have to install an antenna at a site on Bear Creek Road and hook up a computer that will broadcast a continuous loop of content until the local radio outfit is prepared to begin broadcasting original content.
If the station does not go live by Aug. 11, the deal will be completely off, according to the agreement.
After the station goes live, however, it would be months before the sale finalized. Director George Galt, who also sat in on the negotiations, said the closing date for the purchase would likely be in January.
A non-profit solution
While Boulder Creek Rec would own the station, the district would not operate it, nor take on operating costs. That job would be up to a community group that has formed called Boulder Creek Community Radio. Heading up the operation are Tim Welch, Tina Davey and Sam Peacock — locals who wish to run a non-profit station in Boulder Creek.
Welch, the stations interim general manager, has testified to Boulder Creek’s board many times about how the station could be used and believes the community wants a station.
Several audience members at the meeting supported the purpose of the station, saying it could be used for educational and informational purposes, local music and emergency communications like weather alerts and road closures for people in the valley.
Welch estimated the cost of running the volunteer station to be $6,000 to $8,000 annually once it was up-and-running.
“We’re committed to raising that money and I think the community is committed to raising that money,” Welch told the board.
Peacock studied music history in college and has experience working for a radio station in Berkeley, both on the air and on the technical side.
“I have really missed radio,” Peacock said. “As soon as I heard about this whole project, I jumped on it.”
Another expert has signed on. JV Rudnick, a Ben Lomond resident is excited about the project and has installed radio towers and equipment in Bonny Doon, among other locations.
Director George Galt is also a proponent of the project and said he believes spending public dollars to seed a community radio station is a good use of taxpayer funds.
“One of our mission statements is building community through parks, programs and facilities,” Galt said. “This fits two of the criteria, programs and facilities.”
Galt said a radio station serves traditionally underserved populations, including kids, shut-ins and older adults. He also has an emotional connection with songs on the radio.
“I’ve gotten kissed because of the radio,” he said.
Fitzgerald, who originally thought the idea was not smart, said her mind has been changed by the public’s ongoing efforts to get the station up and running. However, she said, if the venture fails the district should sell the rights to another group, so not to lose taxpayer money.
“The district will not be running this out of a broom closet,” Fitzgerald said.