Touchy trans­mit­ter kicks Alam­osa’s KRZA off the air

Com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tion rais­ing funds for crit­i­cal re­pairs

The Taos News - - VALLE VISTA - By Cody Hooks chooks@taos­news.com The Taos News

Si­lence is all that Taoseños have heard when they turn the ra­dio dial to 88.7 FM.

The sig­nal from KRZA, the com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tion out of Alam­osa, Colorado, usu­ally reaches Taos and even Santa Fe. But a series of is­sues in­ter­rupted the usual lineup of com­mu­nity news and shows, NPR pro­gram­ming and beloved norteño mu­sic. They’ve been off the air in the Taos area and San Luis Val­ley since late Septem­ber.

Avid KRZA lis­tener and self-de­scribed her­mit Le­land Dirks has been feel­ing the hurt, es­pe­cially with no tele­vi­sion and lim­ited in­ter­net.

Dirks lives off the grid in Cos­tilla County. Dur­ing the Spring Fire this sum­mer, which be­came the largest wild­fire in the state’s his­tory, he was glued to the ra­dio for daily and hourly up­dates. But even when there wasn’t an emer­gency un­fold­ing a few miles away, he’s often tuned in, in­clud­ing each morn­ing dur­ing a two-hour walk with his dogs. “Di­verse pro­gram­ming, cov­er­ing LGBTQ is­sues, weather… I love that it’s com­mu­nity ra­dio (and) how com­mit­ted it is to all the com­mu­ni­ties of the val­ley,” Dirks said.

An ex­tra hot sum­mer started the cas­cad­ing prob­lems, said Ger­ald Ro­driguez, gen­eral man­ager of the com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tion. “We have some old equip­ment up there, an old AC, and it fi­nally gave out this year,” he said.

It took a while to get money to buy a new air con­di­tioner and then to truck it to the top on an ATV. Ev­ery­thing was good for the day af­ter Ro­driguez in­stalled the new cool­ing unit. That’s when the trans­mit­ter fi­nally broke com­pletely.“There were times I was rac­ing the sun to get down,” he said.

For a small me­dia out­let on a shoe­string bud­get and an even smaller staff, the re­pairs to the trans­mit­ter — the all-im­por­tant piece of equip­ment for a ra­dio sta­tion — cost them a lot, both in time and now in money.

Through­out the sum­mer, Ro­driguez would make the long hike to the KRZA equip­ment on top of San An­to­nio Moun­tain near the New Mex­ico-Colorado bor­der. He’d sling a bag of tools over his shoul­der and sol­dier the three hours to the ra­dio equip­ment on top of the moun­tain. He’d tin­ker with what­ever part was mess­ing up, call the man­u­fac­turer with er­ror codes and do his best to put it back to­gether be­fore mak­ing the three-hour trek back down to his car.

Ro­driguez prob­a­bly did this 10 times over the sum­mer.

At last, prob­lems with the trans­mit­ter’s power sup­ply forced Ro­driguez to track down an en­gi­neer, a scarce re­source in South­ern Colorado. Their en­gi­neer has been trav­el­ing from Colorado Springs in his off-time to re­pair the sta­tion’s equip­ment.

As a tem­po­rary mea­sure, a low-power trans­mit­ter was in­stalled on the Alam­osa of­fice. The sta­tion is now broad­cast­ing in a 15-mile ra­dius around the city. The sta­tion also streams on­line at kris.org and via the TuneIn app on smart­phones.

Ro­driguez said the sta­tion’s seen a big jump in on­line lis­ten­ers as many long­time fans didn’t even know that was an op­tion un­til the trans­mit­ter prob­lems arose and they “called up the sta­tion to ask what’s go­ing on.”

The sta­tion has al­ready paid about $4,000 for new equip­ment and the cost for la­bor will tack on even more to the sta­tion’s $13,000 in ex­penses.

The sta­tion was forced to de­lay its fall fund drive. The drive will now take place from Nov. 3-17. “Due to the ex­pense and tim­ing of this is­sue, we need do­na­tions now more than ever,” read a KRZA Face­book post. Lis­ten­ers can do­nate via the sta­tion’s web­site, via Pay­Pal or by send­ing it to the sta­tion of­fice, 528

9th Street, Alam­osa, Colorado

81101.

‘We have some old equip­ment up there, an old AC, and it fi­nally gave out this year.’

— Ger­ald Ro­driguez, KRZA gen­eral man­ager

Cour­tesy photo

Ger­ald Ro­driguez, gen­eral man­ager of KRZA, hiked to the top of San An­to­nio Moun­tain nearly 10 times over the sum­mer to make var­i­ous re­pairs to mal­func­tion­ing equip­ment. The trans­mit­ter fi­nally went out, forc­ing the ra­dio sta­tion off the air. The sta­tion’s now rais­ing money to cover the re­pairs and meet its monthly ex­penses.

Cour­tesy photo

A tem­per­a­men­tal air con­di­tion­ing unit was the first ma­jor prob­lem faced by KRZA this sum­mer. Ro­driguez re­placed it, but the trans­mit­ter went out soon af­ter.

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