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Royalton Radio Raising Money, Tower

After a year of operating online, Royalton Community Radio is planning to take the major step of putting up a transmitter and an antenna and sending a signal out to its neighbors.

The South Royalton-based station received a low-power FM license in January and its backers have begun to gather the estimated $10,000 needed to start broadcasting at 96.5 on the FM dial.

“It would be nice to have a midsummer night’s dream broadcast,” said Todd Tyson, one of the station’s founders and prime movers. That goal might be a bit lofty, Tyson acknowledged, but it seems likely that sometime during warmer months, the station will live up to its name and be playable on a radio.

The station started broadcasting online last March, but the scarcity of high-speed Internet service in the White River Valley has meant that relatively few people have been able to tune in.

To celebrate the station’s first birthday, and to raise money toward the transmitter costs, Royalton Community Radio is throwing a party Saturday evening, 6 to 10, at the Royalton Academy on Route 14 in Royalton. The party will feature homemade soups, Red Hen bread, salad and refreshments, and live music by Americana band Bitter Greens and Rockit Science, a blues-rock band.

Admission is by a suggested donation of $20, and a payment of $25 confers on the donor a station membership.

For more information about the party or the station, email info@royaltonradio.org.

In its first year of operation, the station has largely met its goals of developing local programming and obtaining a construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission to erect an antenna and transmitter. The station has around 60 volunteer programmers, and their output far exceeds the eight hours of local programming a day that the FCC mandates for low-power FM stations, Tyson said.

Royalton Community Radio produces 12 to 14 hours of programming a day and 50 locally programmed shows each week. Most of the station’s programming is music, but it also produces daily public affairs shows.

The broadcasting plans call for putting an antenna on the steeple of the deconsecrated Catholic church in South Royalton. The station needs to move its broadcasting booth, Tyson said, and find a location for it and the transmitter.

The station’s biggest expense so far has been a small $800 soundboard. The new hardware is of greater magnitude. The transmitter will cost $2,500 to $3,000, and the FCC requires broadcasters to purchase an Emergency Alert System transmitter, which costs another $2,500. Putting up the antenna will require a steeple jack or a crane.

But the end goal is a democratic signal that should blanket the branches of the White River that meet in Royalton. The 100-watt signal should reach into Tunbridge, Sharon and East Bethel, but probably won’t quite reach Bethel village, Tyson said.

So far, the station has raised about $2,000 toward the capital campaign goal and Tyson said he hopes the event Saturday evening will raise at least that much. Of the money raised so far, $1,000 was donated by Ariel Solaski and Daniel Liebowitz, a pair of third-year law students who earned a fellowship to help the station develop some health care programming.

One detail that hasn’t been nailed down yet is the station’s call letters. A few ideas have been up for discussion among the station’s board members, but no decision has been made, Tyson said.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3219.