by Karen Rifkin
Ukiah Daily Journal
May 4, 2013
Radio station KYBU is temporarily housed in the utility room of the Covelo Library, but nobody is complaining. Au contraire, the collective that brought this to fruition is delighted to have a 24-hour-a-day radio station up and running and serving their small, rural town.
It's a story wrapped up in a building, community, goodwill and a group of dedicated volunteers. Lew Chichester explains, "For the past 20 years or so we have had a small library in town. A few years ago it became apparent that this building, the one where we are now meeting, would become available for purchase. During a three-year period Covelo residents raised over $1 million and the Friends of the Round Valley Public Library bought the building with the idea it would be developed into a community center.
"We remodeled it, creating a space for the library and turning the defunct restaurant into a community room big enough to accommodate 160 people complete with a stage. There's a commercial kitchen, a coffee shop, and a commons area with outside seating for parties and gatherings. The essential key in creating this was our community; we all shared the vision.
"We realized it was the perfect time to develop our idea around a radio station; we had a physical space and the sponsorship of the Friends."
Emily Ellickson-Brown, Vassar graduate and community organizer, one of the key individuals helping to birth KBYU, says, "We didn't have to reinvent the wheel; we could operate under the Friends' 501(c)3 nonprofit status allowing us to run the radio station without titles; this way," she says modestly, "we are all volunteers. The Friends have been very supportive; they are a well- established, diverse group of civic-minded individuals.
"The idea for a station began when a group of us were sitting on the back porch sharing some food and drink; its realization has been a great achievement for our small diverse community."
Chichester, a valley resident for four decades, remembers, "The transition between what it was like here 40 years ago and what it's like now has been dramatic. We have no print media here and spotty radio reception. Now, the Internet connects Covelo to the rest of world; information technology works for us allowing the station to be on the air 24 hours-a -day delivering pertinent community information and much more."
In May of 2011, Congress mandated the FCC to open a window for an application for a construction permit for a license for a radio station. The group began to hold weekly meetings open to all those interested. The window never opened.
Enter Imil Ferrara, another graduate of Vassar College. He heard rumors there was a permit owned by coast radio station KOZT, which had planned to transmit its signal to Covelo. The cell tower on the ridge to hold the antenna and transmitter was never built and the license was about to expire; Ferrara asked for help from the coast station and it donated the license to Covelo.
KOZT paid for the engineering and legal fees for the transfer of the title and the relocation of the transmitter from the ridge to downtown Covelo. Licenses are site specific.
"KOZT is our number one awesome sponsor; they are our godparents."
They had a deadline and had to move quickly to be on the air by November to prove they could transmit. They had just a few months to raise $10,000, buy the antenna, transmitter, computers, a mixing board and audio and radio equipment. They did it.
Chichester says, "There is a very important element here. Due to the recent economic downturn there were a number of young people in their 20s and 30s who had returned home. They had been to college and had some professional experience in audio productions, film, radio or computer programming. We had the exact right combination of skills. We were able to do this without having to hire outside engineering; the local community provided the necessary resources. It's been like this the whole way."