Radio station comes to Coupeville

It may not offer Wolfman Jack, but it will provide a way for Central Whidbey residents to listen to local artists and information about community events.

A new antenna and a possible new broadcast location will be up and running in the near future for KWPA, a 25-watt radio station (103.1 FM) serving the Central Whidbey area and operated by the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

Leaders of the community-based radio station hope to raise a 30-foot antenna on the Muzzall farm north of Penn Cove.

“Our objective is to reach Coupeville,” said William Bell, a volunteer who is working to make the radio station self sustaining.

The proposed antenna appears to be near or within boundaries of Ebey’s Reserve.

Mark Preiss, reserve manager, said he hasn’t seen plans for the antenna yet. While he said a public radio station is a good idea, he would want to know if the equipment affects the “viewshed.”

Bell said the antenna will be barely visible.

The proposed antenna should provide better coverage than the current one which covers the prairie side of Coupeville but offers a weak signal to the more populous water side of Coupeville.

“Our antenna is hung off a Ham radio antenna off Wind Dancer Road,” Bell said.

In addition to the new equipment, Bell said volunteers are interested in operating out of a vacant space at the Coupeville Wharf. The spot, which used to house Corroseal, would be used by the radio station as a place for public access. It would provide a prominent location to conduct interviews and broadcast live performances.

In addition, radio station members would also operate a retail store that would cater to boaters who visit Coupeville.

It’s up to the Port of Coupeville to decide who is going to get the space at the wharf. Officials are currently advertising its availability at $498 a month. So far the only other person to publicly express interest is Coupeville resident David Day who approached the port last month about operating a four-person guest suite.

The port commissioners didn’t make a decision concerning the wharf space during their Wednesday morning meeting.

Commissioners questioned Bell about the size of the antenna that would be needed at the wharf and how much power the station would use.

Radio station volunteers are busy acquiring updated equipment and rallying community support on Central Whidbey Island for the station.

Bell said there is considerable support for the radio station on the south end of the island. After WICA acquired the FCC license in 2000, officials learned that Coupeville offered a better broadcasting terrain than hilly South Whidbey.

Backers need to rally local support to help the station become self sustaining.

Bell is working to develop a business model to achieve that goal. KWPA received a grant to help fund equipment purchases, but it can’t be used to pay for station operations. Volunteers have until September before the $50,000 federal grant expires.

In addition to the new radio equipment, Bell said there are plans in store to develop some sort of Internet-based system that will allow the local content to reach listeners on other parts of the island.

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