After months of negotiation and red tape, the license of KNWT Trapper Radio — formerly the campus radio station of Northwest College — has been transferred to Wyoming Public Media.
KNWT Trapper Radio, 89.1 FM, went silent last July, a casualty of budget cuts and the elimination of the college’s radio/TV broadcasting program in 2016.
Attempts to transfer the license to Wyoming Public Media were initially hindered by a lease dispute between the college and the owner of Trapper Radio’s broadcast tower on Cedar Mountain, Legend Towers, LLC. The company confiscated roughly $30,000 worth of college equipment in the dispute last summer.
NWC President Stefani Hicswa said that, sadly, the transfer of the license effectively closes the book on the radio/TV broadcasting program.
“As we looked at all the things we needed to do to make those transfers and wrap up the program, this was one of those last things that was hanging out there,” Hicswa said.
On a more positive note, Hicswa said the sound equipment once used for broadcasting will now be absorbed into the music program.
“Rob Rumbolz, with our music department, is using some of that sound equipment, some of the sound boards from the radio station for our music program,” Hicswa said. “All of that is going to good use, and the studio is being used. All of that is coming together, so that’s all good.”
The equipment out at the tower west of Cody, however, is a different story.
Larry Patrick, managing partner of Legend Towers, LLC, had written Hicswa a letter last July after the college attempted to make monthly rather than annual payments on its lease. Patrick wrote that his company had “no interest” in accepting monthly payments. He said he’d be confiscating the college’s equipment at the Cedar Mountain site and changing the locks to the building — while warning that college officials would be prosecuted for trespassing if they “step foot on our property.” Legend Towers shut off KNWT’s broadcast on July 17, the day of Patrick’s letter.
“This has been handled poorly by your college,” Patrick told Hicswa, saying that NWC owed Legend Towers $50,400.
Legend Towers is a subsidiary of Legend Communications, a company that owns the Big Horn Radio Network in Cody, among other stations.
At last month’s meeting of the NWC Board of Trustees, Hicswa explained to the board that, after consulting with attorneys, the administration decided to cut its losses with whatever college equipment was on-site when Legend Towers locked the doors.
“Our attorney recommended that the cost of pursuing getting our equipment back would be more than what the equipment’s value was,” Hicswa said. “He said to go ahead and leave it. ... We haven’t heard anything [from Legend Towers, LLC]. That’s good, to the extent that it didn’t become more of a conflict than it needed to.”
Christina Kuzmych, general manager of Wyoming Public Media, said the lease dispute was a hindrance, but eventually the license transfer was able to go through.
“It delayed the application transfer process, as we had to identify a new site to broadcast from,” Kuzmych said.
WPM now plans to broadcast from a tower located in the McCullough Peaks. The nonprofit media organization — which operates under the umbrella of the University of Wyoming — hopes that the FCC will transfer NWC’s radio license within the next 30-60 days.
“We will keep the call sign of KNWT with the station, as it has a legacy within the Cody/Powell region,” Kuzmych explained. “We will be programming the station with ‘Wyoming Sounds,’ which is a similar format to what Trapper Radio had programmed. We currently are broadcasting ‘Wyoming Sounds’ in many cities in Wyoming.”
Lease dispute notwithstanding, Kuzmych said working with NWC during the transfer process was a positive experience, and she praised school administrators for their efforts.
“President Hicswa has been very supportive of the whole process, particularly as both parties want the license to remain in the Cody/Powell area,” Kuzmych said. “For WPM, this is very important — it supports our mission of reaching all Wyoming. Also, we have been working with [VP for Academic Affairs] Gerald Giraud and [Visiting Instructor of Speech Communication] Tony Hunt with the transfer process. They have both been very professional to work with.”
Hicswa said praise goes both ways.
“I just can’t say enough about UW and Christina [Kuzmych], and how well the process went,” Hicswa said. “It went really smoothly once we got to the point of doing the contracts and working the transfer. It couldn’t have gone better.”