Tri-Cities TN/VA: Overcast, mist, 62.6 °F
Not that you’d know if from listening, but we’ve been operating for a few hours this past week on our new transmitter. We’re wrapping up a project that began last fall – the installation of a new transmitter, along with the expansion of our transmitter building on Holston Mountain. ETSU contributed over $58,000 to the cost of this project; the rest was paid for with listener contributions.
The transmitter we’ve been using was the one WETS-FM went on the air with back in February of 1974. It’s been a pretty good rig and has held up well, thanks to the loving care of a series of engineers – the late Eugene “Jeep” Jones, Jimmy Patterson, Trevor Swoyer, and our current engineering staff, Mitch Sandidge and Dave Edwards. We’re not getting rid of the old unit; it’ll serve as a backup unit.
The project would have been completed by now, but it was a rough winter up on Holston Mountain. Long after the snow had melted down below, the roads on Holston were still impassable. It was often difficult – and sometimes impossible - for the builders, roofers, electricians, and HVAC people to get to the transmitter site. The new facility includes a generator which is powerful enough to run the main transmitter; our previous generator could only power a small auxiliary unit. That generator, on the other hand, is strong enough to keep our essential studio equipment running in case of a power failure. Once everything is in place, WETS-FM should very rarely be off the air due to power.
That’s a big improvement. Our transmitter gets electricity from Elizabethton Power Board, and the line running up Holston Mountain is very vulnerable to weather and other hazards. Power failures are all too common. With the new generator, WETS-FM will get through these outages without anyone noticing but our engineers.
What will this mean to the listeners? Not a lot that you can hear; the main benefit is the dependability of a new transmitter as opposed to one that has been working constantly for the past 36 years. But the new rig will be putting out a bit more power on the front end of the antenna, and that’s going to mean an improved signal to those on the edges of our coverage area. If you live about 100 miles from Johnson City, you might find that you can pick us up more easily.
Mitch and Dave will be fine-tuning the new transmitter and testing it on-air for the next few days. You might hear some brief program interruption, but it will be very brief. It‘s great to have a new transmitter – but let’s all say a little “thank you” to the old equipment that has served us well for nearly four decades and stands ready to back up the new gear whenever necessary.