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Nov 17, 2009 7:06 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

WLIU considers Jobs Lane home

Nov 17, 2009 7:06 PM

Late last week, the principals of Peconic Public Broadcasting, the nonprofit that won the bid to purchase WLIU 88.3 public radio from Long Island University, reached an agreement with WLIU’s owners, Long Island University, and the station’s landlord, SUNY Stony Brook, that will allow the station to remain in its broadcast studios on the former Southampton College campus until March 31.

The three-month extension of the lease will give the station more time to nail down a location where it will ultimately move once it has completed the purchase, which is expected in mid-January. The possibilities for new homes have expanded in recent weeks to include the landmark former home of the Rogers Memorial Library on Jobs Lane and another site in Southampton Village, in addition to the original target, Wainscott Studios. The radio station—still operating as WLIU until Peconic Public Broadcasting can complete its Federal Communications Commission incorporation—also just completed its first on-air fund-raising drive, shattering all its previous records for donations. The station took in some $90,000 during the five-day appeal, more than three times the station’s previous fund-raising record.

“It went spectacularly,” said Wally Smith, the longtime station manager at WLIU who helped form Peconic Public Broadcasting and spearheaded the effort to bid for the WLIU licenses. “We could never do better than $24,000 before. We had 655 donors, which is double what we’ve done in a year in the past.”

The $90,000 raised is a drop in the bucket compared with the $2.4 million the new radio group will have to raise to complete its planned takeover of WLIU. Its winning bid for the station, which WLIU accepted last month, promised to pay Long Island University $850,000 for the station’s broadcast equipment and licenses and another approximately $500,000 for the expenses of operating the station beyond October 5, the date the university had originally planned to shut down the WLIU broadcast.

Peconic Public Broadcasting will officially take over the financial burden of running the station when the sale closes in January.

According to Porter Bibb, another of the founders of Peconic Public Broadcasting, the station has just over half of the money it needs to complete the sale and make the move to new studios already, the vast majority of it raised privately through donations from wealthy local individuals and corporations. He said there are more donors who are considering sizeable donations and that bank loans would cover any expenses until further donations are secured.

In the meantime, the station is now also exploring a variety of potential new homes. Although it initially had its sights set on Wainscott Studios, a television and film production studio in Wainscott, Mr. Smith said that other options have popped up recently.

“In the flush of all the excitement about the purchase of the radio station a couple new options opened up for us that we are exploring,” Mr. Smith said. “But we have precious little time to make a decision.”

Mr. Bibb said that Parrish Art Museum director Terrie Sultan had proposed the idea of the station possibly using the former library building, which the museum purchased for $1 million in 2001, to Mr. Smith during a recent visit to the station’s studios. The iconic library building is currently used by the museum for many of its education programs with local schools.

Ms. Sultan said on Tuesday that the proposal for the radio station to occupy the building is very preliminary and that she hasn’t even proposed it to the museum’s board of trustees yet. Mr. Bibb noted that the station will also have to look at the structural features of the building to see if it could 
accommodate the broadcasting 
equipment as well as approach Southampton Village officials about the legality of locating the station in the building.

He acknowledged that wherever the station moves it will need to mount a 4-foot by 4-foot dish on the roof of the building to beam its transmission signal to the station’s antenna at the college. The college has told the station it will allow the antenna to remain on their campus indefinitely.

Mr. Smith said the radio station has also been approached by another village landlord about locating the studios in vacant store space off Hill Street in the village. Wainscott Studios is also still a consideration, Mr. Smith said.

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