BUSINESS

Greencastle on the air

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Greg Hoover, left, Wade Burkholder and Ben Thomas Jr. stand in the studio of WRGG. The equipment has been delivered and will be installed soon. The three are bringing local radio back to town, to fill a void from past traditions.

Greencastle had WKSL radio for 30 years, with the locally based programming ending in 1997. To this day people miss the “good companion” format, highlighted by country music and Christian shows, the dream of founder Benjamin Thomas Sr.

Three men who trace their roots or early experiences to WKSL are now bringing a radio station back to Greencastle.

Greg Hoover, Ben Thomas Jr. and Wade Burkholder have most things in place, just waiting to find a location for the transmission tower. WRGG-LP 93.7 FM will be on the air soon, dedicated to all things Greencastle and Antrim Township.

“It’s time for Greencastle-Antrim to again have its very own local news and information radio station,” said Burkholder.

He was one of the original staff of WKSL and has 53 years in the business in Franklin and Washington counties.

“We will complement the area’s larger commercial stations, filling a niche that larger companies don’t feel a need to provide,” he added.

The idea surfaced a decade ago at a WKSL picnic reunion. Finally the time was right for the trio to pursue their vision.

Government deregulation in 1990 changed the airways landscape, making it more difficult for private ownership of radio stations. Therefore, Hoover, Thomas and Burkholder, as members of the Greencastle-Antrim Education Foundation (G-AEF) radio committee, knew low power was the only way they could go. WRGG will serve a 10-mile radius, essentially covering the borough and township. According to Federal Communications Commission rules, the station had to be routed through a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status. G-AEF fit the bill, especially since the purpose of the station is to provide educational training to students, as well as to share news and music with a targeted audience.

WRGG

The committee searched hard for appropriate call letters for the station. WKSL and WGEF were not available, nor were WAGA or WRGA (We are G-A). They ran down the alphabet to find the next best thing.

People can think of WRGG as “We are great Greencastle,” joked Burkholder.

He and his wife Linda donated the use of their property at 113 S. Carlisle St. for the station. It will be on the second level, with a commercial business likely to lease the first floor. They are also doing the remodeling.

WRGG will use the space rent-free, even into perpetuity if Burkholder can set that up.

“The town has been good to us,” he said. “We wanted to do something to give back to the community.”

Hoover commented, “To be honest, I don’t know what we would have done if they hadn’t stepped up.”

The initiative also received a generous donation for start-up costs from the Shockey Family Foundation; volunteer technical installation work by Jeff Baker, Stan Shaffer and Dwight Bard; and printing by Graphics Universal.

The committee received an 18-month extension from the FCC to get everything into place, since an opportune site for the transmission tower fell through. One site was denied when Hoover reversed the coordinates, and ended up in China. They hope to finish the legwork in 2015. Once the station gets final approval, the committee expects to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The broadcast will be live from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., then manned by volunteers or automation. It will also be available to listeners through Internet streaming.

“The mission is profound,” Thomas said. “The goals are endless.”

Programming will cover all local happenings, from sports to the arts to governmental meetings. The music genre will be 1950s and 60s rock and roll, a style underserved by the area commercial stations. WRGG will allow local musicians to perform, and host interviews with members of the community. Each day will follow a set schedule, so people will know when to tune in for their favorite shows.

High school students will be able to gain experience in broadcasting technology and other facets of radio through internships. Listeners are invited to volunteer and share ideas on what they want out of the station.

Operational expenses should be under $100,000 a year, the committee said. They can’t sell commercial advertising, but can promote the businesses or individuals who underwrite programs or make tax deductible contributions through G-AEF.

Because the three have had radio in their blood since the 1960s, they will be involved with WRGG even after retirement from their current jobs. Burkholder and Thomas will focus on marketing, Hoover will handle programming, and he and Thomas will  announce on the air as well.

“We think we can pull this off,” Hoover said. “It will be a huge benefit to the community.”

The station won’t compete against regional radio, they claim. But driven to serve only G-A, they will provide what the larger enterprises can’t.

“We want to be a station of the people, for the people, by the people of the Greencastle-Antrim area,” said Burkholder.