KSKQ negotiates power accord with U.S. Cellular

ASHLAND — After drawn-out negotiations with U.S. Cellular and a frantic struggle to keep its FM signal on the air, community radio station KSKQ has reached an agreement to bring power to its broadcasting antenna on Table Mountain.

The station signed a six-month use agreement earlier this month with the cellphone service provider, which owns a transformer on the mountain from which KSKQ's antenna is now drawing electricity.

"We had this big race to get the power situation figured out before winter "… and it finally came together for us," said Jason Houk, news director for the Ashland-based radio station. "Where we're at now is really exciting because our next big step is being able to offer valley-wide service."

The radio station, which offers a variety of alternative programming, had been waiting for a response from U.S. Cellular since installing its antenna on the mountain last June.

"We were finally able to negotiate an interim solution with U.S. Cellular," said Connie Saldaña, treasurer for the radio station and its operator, the Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon. "The wait was a little frustrating —… but in the end it turned out to be a really positive agreement for us."

During that wait, a propane generator being used to power the radio antenna ran out of fuel when heavy snowfall prevented a fuel truck from reaching the site for nearly a week.

After 21/2; days of a fuzzy FM frequency, the station was able to refill its propane tank and reestablished generator power to its antenna on Nov. 16.

Securing a permanent agreement with U.S. Cellular now hinges on negotiations with the land owner concerning easement rights of a power line running across the property, Saldaña said.

Neither the landowner, Kathy Uhtoff of Ashland, nor U.S. Cellular responded to phone messages.

The station will now begin a fundraising campaign to purchase and install a permanent full-power antenna at the site, which should allow it to reach the entire Rogue Valley, including as far as Gold Hill and Shady Cove, according to the station's tests, Saldaña said.

An open house and New Year's Eve party at the KSKQ station, at 330 E. Hersey St., Lot 2, from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 31, will mark the beginning of an effort to raise about $10,000.

Saldaña said purchasing the full-power antenna will cost $5,000 and it will cost another $5,000 to tune its frequency to not interfere with the valley's existing stations.

"And once we do that, so many more people will be able to participate," she said. "That's the next hurdle, our main goal, and we're aiming for April."

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