The rumors of our death? Exaggerations, all.

IMG_2806It’s been three long months since we last released new information about Lakes 103, Mora’s soon-to-be new FM station. This lack of info has surely led to some doubt about whether said station will ever be on the air.

For those who’ve been wondering, the answer is YES! Not only will it be running in the near future, but – unknown to most – it already has been running, albeit briefly.

It was the afternoon of September 12. We were finally ready to turn on Lakes 103 for its first test broadcast. Everything had been checked – twice – and was ready to go. Programming cued! Power on! And with that, we were up and running!

But after less than an hour of operation, we decided to take the station back off the air. Why? During our testing, we discovered a defect in our antenna.

Like many parts of our station, the antenna was second-hand. We had taken great care to ensure it was properly tuned while on the ground. Everything we could check, was checked.

But there remained a few things which were impossible to determine until the antenna was actually in the air, on the tower, and running at full power. It was one of those final measurements, the ones we could only hope would be good, that ended up bringing things to a halt.

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The antenna’s performance was fair, at best. We wouldn’t settle for anything less than fantastic.

Needless to say, this was a massive disappointment to all involved – and a huge, unexpected burden for those tasked with fixing it.

We immediately sought the input of our consulting engineer, as well as the antenna’s manufacturer. A method of repair was suggested, but all who spoke of it warned that success was not assured, and that several rounds of adjustment would likely be required. Since the only way of accessing the top of the tower was with a crane (at a cost of around $1000 per session), we decided that attempting to repair the existing antenna was too great a risk.

Bids were sought for a replacement antenna, brand-new and ready to use. Estimates ranged from $1500 (for a low-end unit likely to withstand only a few winters) to $2800 (for a good quality “inverted V” unit, a design superior to that of our existing one).

As so often happens here, we decided there had to be a better solution - even if we had to invent one ourselves. So we did.

After several days of searching, our Director managed to locate several new, unused pieces of an “inverted V” antenna, which were left over from another station’s upgrade project. After driving 12 hours to retrieve these pieces, and working with our supplier to remove said items from their estimate, the final cost of the antenna was reduced by over 50%.

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Surplus antenna parts. From a barn in Green Bay, to the shop in Mora, then off to the factory in Ebensburg… and back again!

Still, that amount – plus the cost of the crane, shipping for the new antenna, etc – far exceeded the funds which remained in our budget.

A few hundred dollars were raised by selling off some excess recordings and other un-needed station inventory. Our original group of donors stepped up once again, contributing several hundred more dollars. And the Onan Family Foundation also came to our aid with a $1500 donation. All told, this second round of fundraising yielded just enough money to set the antenna replacement project in motion.

The order for our new “inverted V” antenna was placed in early November. Manufacture of the antenna began almost immediately, with a projected completion date falling in late December or early January.

After nine long weeks of waiting, we were informed on January 5 that the antenna was built, tested, and ready to ship. The parts we’d provided had been checked and modified as necessary, and all the new pieces were likewise tested and guaranteed to work. We even ended up getting a few small upgrades at no additional charge.

10710921_10154766112335201_341228835429698847_nWith the new antenna now on a truck somewhere between Minnesota and Pennsylvania, a new phase of the “waiting game” has begun. We expect it will arrive sometime next week, after which we’ll begin checking the weather forecasts and scheduling a date for the crane and tower crew.

It’s been a long road so far, and we’re not done yet. But the end is in sight!

Even when the going gets tough, our volunteers and donors have stood tall and kept this project moving forward. We couldn’t be more proud of the work they’ve done, and are always grateful for their support.

All of us here at the Lakes Media Foundation look forward to continued success, and can’t wait to begin serving the Mora area with local, live, non-commercial radio in the near future.