One day after its lease with the city of Brookings expired, Radio Station KCIW went dark on Nov. 1.
“This is very disheartening,” wrote Kathleen Dickson on the radio station’s Facebook page.
Other comments since the Brookings City Council voted on Oct. 25 to not extend the radio station's lease have not been so tempered.
“Their reputation precedes them - Ideologically-driven good old boys,” wrote Rose Mantle on Facebook.
Local aviation instructor Doug Hanson appeared on behalf of KCIW’s president, Rose Weiss, to request a 90-day extension from the city council at the October meeting, but without comment from the council the plea was unanimously struck down.
“I really felt like I was speaking to a wall,” Hanson said to the Pilot. “We are viewed as liberal-minded, so it’s probably a political thing.”
Brookings Mayor Ron Hedenskog responded that he turned on the station two summers ago, but only listened for a half hour.
“They started blasting the president of the United States,” Hedenskog said. “He was a duly-elected political official who didn’t deserve that type of treatment.”
Hedenskog added that though he doesn’t always agree with the radio station’s politics, the decision was not based on politics and instead goes back to discussions that began in 2014.
“The objective was to give a fledgling radio show a chance to get going in the community and it was made clear to them that this would not always be for free or be permanent,” Hedenskog said. “We can’t subsidize a public radio station with tax-payer dollars for ever.”
On Sept. 14, 2014, the city council authorized its city manager to prepare and execute an agreement with Curry Coast Community Radio to install and maintain a radio broadcast antenna on the city’s public safety communications tower for a three-year period.
Six months after that, in March 2015, a memorandum of understanding was signed that allowed the station to use the tower at no cost for three years, with the added intention that KCIW would develop an emergency broadcast system that went beyond the Federal Communication Commission’s robotic-voice sounding format, and instead include real-person voice recording capabilities.
“But after four years, they still didn’t have it,” Hedenskog said.
Hanson disagreed. According to him, KCIW sat down with the mayor, city manager and Police Lieutenant Donny Dotson to show that they had purchased an EAS (Emergency Alert System) capable of delivering live voice messages that could be repeated on a loop, “but the city decided to go in a different direction,” he said.
Hanson also forwarded to the Pilot the slide presentation that he said KCIW presented to city officials.
Despite differing views on how to move forward with an emergency broadcast system, the city council voted to extend the lease again in 2019 at a cost of $100 per month, and at the urging of city leaders, KCIW informed the council that it was trying to find a new location for its antenna.
The lease was then extended again for the last time, for one year - ending Oct. 31.
“They were strongly warned to not take that last lease extension for granted and to keep looking for another location,” Hedenskog said.
Warnings that did not go unheard. In May of 2021, Weiss posted on the station’s social media platforms that she would personally give anyone up to $1,000 if they could help locate an alternative site for their antenna.
On October 19, Weiss sent a letter to the city informing them that an effective location had been found, but “many factors have contributed to delays necessitating our need for an extension.”
Weiss further wrote that the complications had to do with COVID impacting being able to work with consultants, experts and facilities; weather uncertainties impacting installation; difficulty finding a new location that would meet their antenna mounting, security and transmission needs, and more importantly, pending approval from the FCC.
According to Hanson, the FCC has approved a construction permit for the new location, and the antenna is ready to be installed pending weather that allows enough time for an installer to travel from Roseberg to complete the install.
Hanson said that once the antenna is up and other electrical equipment is secured in a nearby building, the final step is getting another nod of approval from the FCC to go live. He was uncertain, however, how long that process may take.
“The station does not want to create rough waters and doesn’t want bad blood between the two,” Hanson said. “We are happy to move on, and I think the city is happy to move on as well.”
Though KCIW is not on the air, its programs continue to be broadcast on its website, kciw.org.
According to Brookings City Manager Janell Howard, the city is currently in negotiations with a private cell phone company to lease space left vacant on the tower, at a cost of $30,000 to $36,000 a year.