Mike Bishop, chair of the Cowichan Valley Community Radio Society for CIVC 98.7 FM the Lake, along with Ron McKenzie, the society’s vice chair, recently approached School District 79 with a proposal.
The society would like to make use of the empty library room at the Stanley Gordon School. This push to find a new home is due to the fact that in February 2014, the lease the radio station holds with its location in the old ambulance building on Wellington Ave. will expire.
“The town has made it clear that our lease will not be renewed at that time,” said Bishop. “The lease for the space was for three years.”
However, before anything can be decided the radio station must wait to hear back from the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission.
“Our application for a ranking for a full-fledged station is up before the CRTC this week,” said Bishop. “And they’ll be having our hearing in the hall in Quebec anytime this week, so day by day I’m watching to see whether it’s been approved.”
An approval from the CRTC would mean that the station could increase its power and change its transmitter location.
“At the present time we broadcast at five watts, its a developmental station, and as a full fledged community station we would broadcast at 50 watts.”
The application included having a professional engineering study done to determine what improvements could be made to the existing broadcast antenna tower and a computer geographic study was conducted to determine the best location for a new tower. A location has been found, but it is on private land and Bishop says he is waiting for a response from the CRTC before he approaches the land owner.
An anonymous donor stepped forward to pay the $10,000 bill that came along with this study. “And I say to them, God bless you,” said Bishop.
The application to the CRTC does not mean there will be any drastic changes to the programming at CICV.
“It was the programming we had already done in our developmental stages. We had tuned our programming to meet the CRTC standards. So in submitting this application we had to confirm to them that we were going to continue with that programming.”
In terms of the new location, and the proposal to SD79 to use the library at Stanley Gordon, Bishop says he would have preferred a downtown, central location where the station would have more of a public presence and be more accessible to the public.
However, because the station is a not-for-profit and relies on donations from the public, the radio station had to look for alternative locations. Bishop says that the school board is considering the proposal.
“It’s gone up to the next level, they’re going to decide whether or not we can use that facility,” says Bishop. “There are some issues that need to be addressed around that,” he adds.
Those issues include those around mould and structural stability when it comes to earthquake resistance, both of which were stated as issues when the school closed.
“We want to have an assurance from the school district that neither of those are issues any further,” says Bishop.
There would be costs involved in preparing the space, but Bishop says that because the school board wants it done at a zero cost to them, the station would begin a fundraising campaign to meet the approximate $10,000 that would be needed to partition off areas and make the space functional.
“That would not only include the physical changes within the building itself, but . . . also the electronics required for the radio connection (to the tower).”
There are several benefits to having the radio station located at the old school site. One of them being the view of Cowichan Lake, including Lake Cowichan, Mesachie, Honeymoon Bay, and Youbou.
As well, “the fact that we are a not-for-profit society run by volunteers, it means that our undertaking fits the definition of what public school buildings can be used for,” said Bishop.
“The Stanley Gordon School site is a Crown grant property; it is granted to the district for school purposes. There is some leeway in putting other uses in there that are complementary but don’t take over the building,” says district secretary-treasurer Bob Harper.
“If you gave the building to the municipality, for instance, that would have changed the fundamental use. With this, we’re still using it. We’re not modifying our use of it,” Harper adds.
Bishop sees another bonus to the location. “We’ve noticed a real up-tick in the involvement in young people from the high school in our radio station. If we’re located nearby (the high school) it just goes hand-in-glove that we can become more involved with especially the drama club.”
He adds that this year, drama students had a radio play and they would like to do the same in the fall.
If the school board denies the radio station the use of the library space, Bishop says that in a worst case scenario he and the other members and local radio personalities can make it work from a home location. He is also open to suggestions from the public. “We will not be off the air,” he assures.
However, if the station is denied its application to the CRTC, Bishop says the station will continue on the internet, but doing so would be limiting.
“We see one of our main purposes, in being a local community station, is being around in times of emergency.”
“It’s pointless to go and do all of this if the CRTC says no, but I can’t imagine that being the case. If they say yes, I want all the services in the Cowichan Valley put on notice.” In other words, CIVC will begin its campaign for budget funding.
Look for updates in the Gazette over the coming weeks.