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Crosstown Traffic

Community-radio advocates and the Colorado Department of Transportation wind up in gridlock.

Even so, the largest omissions made by the daily papers concern the substance of CDOT's November letter, whose arguments had been floated, without success, to the FCC in a previous e-mail. Last winter, at the suggestion of a broadcast attorney, Minturn Public Radio types got in touch with the state's Telecommunications Services department trying to work out a way to cooperate with CDOT, but they say they were put off for months. Finally, in September, Conrad Sramek, representing Telecommunications Services, e-mailed the FCC requesting that Minturn Public Radio and Colorado Mountain College be allowed to change the frequencies for which they'd initially applied. In reply, the FCC's Dale Bickel wrote, "At the present time, it has not been decided whether frequency change amendments will be permitted to eliminate conflicts in the LPFM service, nor any procedures established to handle such amendments. I expect that the Commission will eventually issue an order to clarify this matter, but I have no idea when that might be."

The aforementioned letter sent on November 21 by Telecommunication Services's Nelson made the same plea as Sramek's memo; it was prompted by a missive sent to CDOT executive director Tom Norton by Minturn Public Radio president Timothy Bryendlson and Colorado Mountain College's Ritschel two days earlier, but Nelson didn't consult with either of them before presuming to speak on their behalf. Unfortunately, it's all but guaranteed to receive the same hazy response from the FCC. In an e-mail to Westword, Bickel said there's still been no decision about whether or not to consider such amendments. Given what a bureaucratic nightmare handling hundreds upon hundreds of LPFM applications has turned into for the chronically understaffed Commission, FCC executives may ultimately choose, for expediency's sake, not to wade into this murky water -- and even if they do, the delays could well be measured not in months, but in years.

Hopkins believes otherwise: He says CDOT has every reason to believe that the FCC will react positively to its amendment proposal, thus resulting in "a win-win situation" for everyone involved. But the Minturn Public Radio boardmember calls the petition "a ruse to deflect criticism of a department that didn't do its homework first and didn't care that a whole variety of communities would love to have their own radio stations.

"This isn't only affecting Minturn or Steamboat or Glenwood Springs," he goes on. "It's affecting all sixteen locations that may not be applicants today but might be candidates for future applications, and now won't be able to because CDOT has already taken the signals. They're not interested in the communities. If they were, we'd be at the point that guy in Estes Park is."

That Estes Park guy -- Santa Claus look-alike Paul Saunders -- is indeed moving forward. He's already had his first organizational meeting and boldly predicts that he'll be on the air in six months. Meanwhile, says the Minturn boardmember, "We're hopeful that our station will eventually get approved. But we've been waiting and waiting and waiting for two years. And we're still waiting."

May we please come home again? Last month, five former Rocky Mountain News staffers who left the paper for high-paying positions at Interactive Week wound up unemployed after the high-tech magazine kinda/sorta merged with a sister publication ("The Subject of a Lifetime," November 15). Now, one of them has returned to the roost: Bill Scanlon is back working the city beat for the News, joining Charlie Brennan, another writer who decamped a while ago only to realize that the grass on the other side of the fence is looking mighty brown these days.

There's no telling if the other prodigals will eventually follow, but News business editor Rob Reuteman isn't making any guarantees. Over the past couple of years, Reuteman has had to replace oodles of reporters lured away by dollar signs, but thanks to a tanking economy that's decimated the business-mag market, things have changed. "If you're looking for a job, it's terrible, but if you're hiring, it's tremendous," he allows. He's been advertising nationally for an open position in his department and is extremely impressed by the quality of the resumés he's received. He doesn't rule out the possibility that a News alum will ultimately get the nod, but he says, "We don't like to look at ourselves as a safety net, where you can go off and do something else, but you can always come back. That's just not the case."

Yes, the worm has turned, and Reuteman is licking his chops. Laughing, he says, "I'm in the catbird seat now."

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