A brief history of KOWS: 2012 to the present
Source: KOWS Steering Committee Notes
KOWS-FM was shepherded into existence by Phil Tymon, currently Administrative Director at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) in Occidental, and went “on the air” in 2007.
“We’re putting a transmitter up. We want to be in town because the whole idea is that it’s a community radio station, a focal point for the community,” he said in a local newspaper article.
Tymon’s ties with the OAEC allowed the KOWS antenna to have a home in a redwood tree on the OAEC’s 80 acre facility. The OAEC paid for the license and the transmitter.
Tymon acted as station manager through 2011, but beginning in 2012, there was a transition to a “collective leadership” model of management using a Steering Committee that would be responsible for day to day operations.
For the last 4 years, KOWS has been trying to make this loose management style work. But wresting monthly dues from its 80+ hosts has been a difficult, illusive goal. So have maintaining equipment, finding affordable studio space, getting and sustaining new sources of income via underwriters and members, and, most importantly, establishing KOWS as a “focal point for the community” in Occidental.
Year after year, KOWS has continued to struggle with the same issues: the hosts don’t pay their dues, the underwriters don’t pay/renew, and programming is a nightmare of shifting schedules, drop outs, and add ins. Vetting and training new hosts and their shows is a back-burnered yet ever-present worry.
Volunteers don’t show up at events, the same 10 people do all the work. Understanding and correcting equipment failures is a constant problem, from the thermostat to the CD players.
KOWS has been considering relocating its antenna for several years. They have not been able to make it happen in spite of local grants, county-waived permit fees, and significant coverages and contributions from the OAEC.
Respini Ranch has been a relocation site contender since late 2014. An antenna could be mounted there in a redwood tree, as it is at the OAEC, so no antenna tower purchase and construction would be necessary. In addition, the site allows the station to fully reach its target audience in Sebastopol.
This solution would clearly save the strapped station a great deal of money. The expense for a tower relocation was estimated at $20,000; for a tree relocation, $5000.
In the face of a membership, grants, and underwriting “standstill” in December of 2014, KOWS continued to press the community for relocation donations. Respini Ranch was the leading candidate, as well as the least expensive and most easily expedited solution. Other locations, in the Cherry Ridge hills and at the City of Sebastopol’s water tank property, came under discussion as well. Eventually the focus was turned to Respini Ranch and Pleasant Hill as the top two contenders.
Some Steering Committee members felt that the exorbitant expenses (now estimated at 25-30K) and potential for a long approval process at the Pleasant Hill Reservoir site made Respini Ranch, being far cheaper (5-10K), more quickly resolved, and providing excellent broadcast coverage, the obvious choice. But others expressed their conviction that the group must “claim the airwaves before someone else does”. This contingent won out.
Respini Ranch remains a viable alternative that would fully serve KOWS Sebastopol broadcasting goals, while protecting our neighborhood’s scenic views and vistas from urban blight and potential further industrial invasion.
KOWS describes itself as a community-serving entity. That mission alone should make it unthinkable to attempt to locate a 70 foot antenna tower on a site where its presence deeply conflicts with surrounding neighbors’ health, safety and well being.
SHARP hopes that KOWS will revise their plans and reconsider Respini Ranch as the right choice for relocation.
An Alternative Site: Respini Ranch: more about Respini Ranch and other antenna relocation sites, from the KOWS Steering Committee notes.