KAHU 91.7 FM, the Shepherd, in Pahala, (Ka’u Community Radio Inc.) is in the process of dismantling its only tower site in Naalehu, in the southern region of Hawaii Island due to the station’s increasing operational expenses over the last year and lack of consistent public, local business and corporate funding.
Christine Kaehuaea, station general manager of KAHU 91.7 FM and President/Director of Ka’u Community Radio Inc. and her management team have decided to strip the station down to its studs and stabilize the foundation of the organization with a new simplified direction.
Upon FCC (Federal Communications Commission) approval in December, antennas and equipment will be removed from the Naalehu tower, with some pieces being liquidated and some re-installed at the radio station in Pahala.
The downsizing will reduce the overall budget and allow for more focus on funding acquisitions, while ensuring a reduced but consistent FM Broadcast from its transmitter in Pahala.
Continued servicing of KAHU 91.7 FM’s global community will remain in tack with the ability to “listen live”via any mobile device or computer as the station slowly rebuilds during the next two years.
“Downsizing will enable our station to lower its expenses while still providing service,” Kaehuaea said, “with our monthly expenses at approximately $8,500, coupled with the lack of consistent and substantial funding we’ve had to weigh our options to either downsize and regroup or risk permanent closure by the end of December 2012 which would heavily impact the communities we literally serve in the District of Ka’u, especially in the event of an emergency. With all of the people that have invested in keeping us on the air, I’m proud to say that we’ve chosen to keep swimming.”
During July, the station’s emergency alert services were put to the test as Pahala braced for the worst wild fire in its history, covering approximately 5,600 acres of land in two separate locations while closing off Highway 11, the main artery of the region.
The station was the first media on-scene with police and fire to acquire reports about the fire, road closures, detours and evacuations and relay that information to a live announcer in its studio providing instant status to listeners.
In October, Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia felt a 7.7 earthquake, which prompted the Pacific Tsunami Center to issue a warning to Hawaii Island.
The station broadcasted an evacuation of low coastal areas, and coordinated with police in re-routing travelers to alternate routes or housing them at the station until the OK was given by the governor at 1:15 a.m.
Prior to June 28, 2010, this 77-mile expanse of challenging terrain from mountain to sea only heard silence or sirens in the event of an emergency.
As a Native Hawaiian owned and operated community radio station, KAHU 91.7 FM is the only radio station heard from Volcano to Naalehu and impacts 11,225 residents from Ocean View to Volcano and down to Kalapana, as well as approximately 398,695 visitors that pass through the Ka’u.
Co-owner of KAHU 91.7 FM and Director of Ka’u Community Radio Inc., Wendell J. Kaehuaea, has retired from daily radio station operations.
The mission of KAHU 91.7 FM is to embrace the communities that it serves in Ka’u and beyond. As the only Native Hawaiian owned and operated station in the United States and sole resource of county and state Civil Defense emergency broadcast services to the southern region of Hawaii island; the goal of KAHU 91.7 FM is to assist in keeping the doors of business open for local merchants and businesses, educate listeners to the Hawaiian culture and island diversity, support the community through a variety of unique avenues and offer a voice of friendship through music and other programming.