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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Will WJFF be moving?

By Mike Vreeland - reporter / photographer

By: Mike Vreeland | Democrat
The former Catskill Harvest Market property on Route 52 in Liberty is being considered for WJFF radio's new base of operations.
JEFFERSONVILLE — “Should I stay or should I go?” sang The Clash back in the 1980s. Today, that same question is being considered by WJFF radio in Jeffersonville.
Last fall, WJFF was gifted a 14-plus acre piece of property on Route 52 in the Town of Liberty, site of the former Catskill Harvest Market. The big question is whether or not to move the WJFF operations to the Liberty location.
The WJFF Community Advisory Board is seeking the views and ideas of community members before WJFF's Board of Trustees makes a decision in the fall.
President of the WJFF Community Advisory Board, Lydia Rolle, moderated two recent public town hall style meetings at the Friendship Baptist Church in Ferndale to gather input.
Members of the Board of Trustees were present to share information, answer questions, and listen to community ideas.
Trustee Kit Hulit explained that WJFF, a non-commercial educational broadcaster, has developed a five-year strategic plan that calls for increased diversity, partnering with schools to increase youth involvement, and greater presence in the eastern part of the listening area, among other things. “Regardless of the location,” added Board of Trustees President Pat Pomeroy, “we must meet the goals of the strategic plan.”
Reasons for making the move to Liberty include: more space for offices, meetings, performances, and additional production studios. The main building in Liberty is all on one level and is easily accessible for the mobility-impaired. The site, closer to the eastern listening area, has ample parking and is nearer to public transportation for non-drivers. Its proximity to BOCES and Liberty schools would make for easier partnering with schools and increase youth participation. And costs to get the broadcast signal to the Elk Point Road antenna location would be greatly reduced as well. The other buildings on the site would provide much needed storage space for fundraisers like the annual auction and music sale.
Reasons for remaining at the Jeffersonville location included honoring its 27-year history as the nation's only hydro-powered public radio station. Moving to Liberty would end that.
Liberty would also have the additional expense of a solar installation to provide sustainable power, but Hulit pointed out that could provide electric for heating as well (Jeffersonville is heated with propane.) Housing the station at the Liberty location would take that property off the Town of Liberty tax rolls. Although, it was pointed out that the station could possibly subdivide and sell off a large portion of the Liberty property, which depending on who the buyer is, might then stay on the tax roll.
The station is also considering a satellite studio in Monticello to reach the eastern part of the listening area in keeping with the strategic plan, which would make the move to Liberty less necessary. The station already has a satellite studio in Honesdale, PA.
The big unknown at this point is the cost of renovating the Liberty location versus the cost of upgrading in Jeffersonville. The village board in Jeffersonville, where WJFF is currently located, was not willing to give an estimate of zoning costs without a full architectural and engineering study, so the WJFF board decided to first get a workup for only the Liberty property. If those numbers are reasonable, they will move forward with that information. If the Liberty numbers are way beyond the station's budget / fundraising capabilities, only then would they seek to cost out the Jeffersonville property.
Pamela Pesante, a community member involved with the Kingfisher Project and at-risk local youth, addressed the strategic plan's increase in diversity by pointing out the benefits of the Liberty location for more youth participation and volunteering opportunities for those who may not be able to afford automobiles. She suggested weighing the humanity against the costs when making a final decision.
Community input is still needed. Interested persons may leave their comments throughout the month of July on the station's Facebook page - WJFF Radio Catskill, or their website, Trustee Martin Springhetti also encouraged people to get involved in the station as volunteers, stating,“We are community radio.”

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