Radio antenna location request goes before PZ Wednesday

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By Carol A. Clark

Los Alamos community radio station KRSN AM 1490 passed the first step towards receiving site approval for its new antenna from the Parks and Recreation Board last month.

Station owners David and Gillian Sutton are now set to present their case to the Planning and Zoning Commission at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday in Council Chambers at the Community Building at 20th Street and Central Avenue.

The Suttons are seeking P and Z approval to locate their antenna in the northeast corner of Loma Linda Park.  

“We gave ourselves five years to accomplish three things,” Gillian said. “We wanted to bring KRSN into compliance with all FCC rules, to enable KRSN to be heard day and night throughout Los Alamos without white noise and to broadcast programming that meets Los Alamos’ unique culture and interests.”

Three-and-a-half years into the process, the Sutton’s are still struggling to bring KRSN fully back into the community it has served for decades, she said.  

“The Loma Linda location was not a randomly-picked piece of land,” David said. “Gillian and I literally measured every vacant lot in the Los Alamos townsite in an attempt to place this antenna in the least obstructive manner. Everything east of Hawks water tower, on any mesa, is too close to the airport. Land west of North Road is too close to the mountains and a canyon site will not work.”   

For many years, KRSN’s antenna was located on North Mesa and during that time Los Alamos had clear reception during all broadcasting hours, a criterion which brings the station into compliance with FCC regulations, he said.  

The Suttons invested in a brand new transmitter and a private DSL line from the station to the current antenna, both of which improved broadcast quality but unfortunately did not improve night reception, Gillian said.  

“The antenna needs to return to the same elevation as the Los Alamos townsite for improved reception and to bring KRSN into FCC compliance,” she said.  

The Suttons specifically chose technology that minimizes the station’s impact on the environment, David said.

Any AM radio station located in Los Alamos must have an antenna at the same elevation as the townsite, he said, adding that if the antenna is turned down, no station will be able to operate with FCC compliance using Los Alamos as the city of license.  

“Los Alamos is an extremely diverse and active community and could certainly use a locally-based broadcast source of news, breaking news, information and other programming,” David said. “Gillian and I love being the community radio station. People who grew up here comment on the important role KRSN played then and note how important a local station is in today’s world, which relies increasingly on electronic media for news and information.”

When the Suttons made their case to the Parks and Recreation Board in June, they explained that KRSN supports local charities, Los Alamos Public Schools, Los Alamos High School athletics, local businesses, UNM-LA, Los Alamos County and Los Alamos National Laboratory.  

“In the case of breaking news or an emergency, one phone call to KRSN can quickly relay the message to the world,” Gillian said. “We want this resource to remain local and responsive to the community it serves.”

If the antenna plan is approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, there will still be many steps before construction can begin including at least two more county council meetings and another visit to P and Z.

Following all the required legal steps including hearings, public comment periods, surveys, leases and construction permits, if their request is ultimately approved, the Suttons said they hope to start construction at the antenna site in the spring.  

“This is a slow process allowing public opinions and suggestions to be heard,” David said. “It’s all very important and we really encourage everyone to come to Wednesday’s P and Z meeting to express support for their community radio station.

Sidebar: The New Mexico Broadcasters Association hosted judges from around the country last weekend for this year’s Excellence in Broadcasting annual competition.

This year’s entries represented established stations with proven talent and ingenuity as well as new and blossoming stations from small and large markets.  

KRSN-AM earned awards in four categories including Public Service Announcement involving the Northern New Mexico United Way Youth Campaign by David Sutton, station co-owner, production manager and chief operations Officer for the station.

The couple also earned the Public Service Campaign award for a United Way Campaign by David. The station also won for their :30 Commercial KRSN-AM DJ Personality Aircheck by David and Rosalie Heller’s Excursions in Classical Music by David, and Get on the Bus: Atomic City Transit commercial by David.  

“We submitted the best of what we had produced in 2008 for this year’s awards,” co-owner Gillian Sutton said. “We were up against other radio stations in the state that serve populations similar to ours between 10,000-20,000.”

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.