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Friday, June 12, 2009

Mt. Mitchell repeater site risks being evicted

For those of you west of the Mississippi or north of the Mason/Dixon, Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.  Near the peak is Clingman's Peak, where several broadcast and communications towers reside.

The repeaters have the largest coverage area of a single repeater on the east coast.  They are on:
  • 53.63
  • 145.190 
  • 224.54
  • 442.225 
  • 443.600 
145.190 is probably the most popular of the group.  There's nary a ham in a 7-state area who hasn't heard of (or talked on) Mt. Mitchell.  Just last night I was listening to a couple of hams on there, and there was no indication of any issues with the repeater.  In fact, one of the hams I was talking with just last week, and it was the first time I had talked on that repeater since last June when I went camping near Catawba Falls.  When I first got licensed in 1993, there was hardly a moment when Mt. Mitchell wasn't in use.  I can recall a couple of hams in particular who commandeered the machine from sunup to sundown.  It was the hotspot for North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and even Florida.  When there was a band opening on 2 meters, it was possible to hear stations from Maine.  I heard several stories of Maine-Florida QSO's happening during openings.  Over the last few years the activity has quelled somewhat, but 

I was surfing the QRZ.com forums this morning and came across this bit of information regarding the repeaters on Mt. Mitchell:

Per owner of several of the repeaters (WA4BVW), all repeaters have to be removed from Mount Mitchell by the end of July. According to Ken, WA4BVW, the Mt. Mitchell 2 meter repeater [145.190-] will have it's 27 year anniversary this June. It is home of the 6600 net on Saturday nights, which has check-ins from NC, SC, TN, Georgia. The repeater has great coverage. When I got my ticket, this was the first repeater I made a contact on with NC4TN. I have not been a ham for very long, but I really enjoyed what time I have had on the repeater, especially the 6600 net. 

Repeaters:
I came home and received the following info via email (WARNING, lengthy):
Dear Ham Radio Community.
 
Western Carolina Amateur Radio Society needs your assistance.  
 
The Mt Mitchell Repeaters will be off the air if we do not act.  This is a BIG BIG deal.
 
Below is an email sent out to this evening.  We are asking that you forward this email to your members and ask that they respond to help us keep the 53.63, 145.190, 224.54, 442.225, 443.600 repeaters on the air.
 
You may follow this on QRZ -  http://forums.qrz.com/showthread.php?t=206595
 
We appreciate your assistance.
 
Dean Blair ~ k2jb
WCARS President
 

Ladies & Gentleman,
 
There have been a lot of phone calls and emails today regarding the pending demise of the Mt. Mitchell repeaters.  

Some of you may be hearing this for the 1st time.
Let me summarize the facts and then suggest some action items for everyone.
 
1. To recap, regarding the amateur radio repeaters on Clingman's Peak (Mt Mitchell), WMIT General Manager, Alice Knighten has informed Ken Woodard, WA4BVW to..."Please plan to remove all of your equipment from the site and return the access keys to our office by July 31, 2009." 
 
2. Randy Johnston, KE4RQL who maintains the 3 WA4BVW repeaters and Jimmy Johnson, K4YR owner of 2 other repeaters located there have attempted to discuss the matter with Ms. Knighten. Her decision seems irreversible and there is nothing to discuss about the issue except to remove the repeaters.  
 
3. I have spoken with Randy and Jimmy and they are appreciative of any assistance the amateur community can bring to bear to reverse this decision and have requested WCARS take a lead in coordinating assistance. We have the support of NWS, SKYWARN, ARRL and WCARS and I believe EOC managers.  
 
From my conversations today, the consensus seems to be:
  1. Find an alternative site with the Forest Service on Clingman's Peak. No guarantees this is possible and would be Plan B.
  2. Generate enough attention to this issue with the people who may be able to appreciate the value of amateur radio on Mt. Mitchell and reverse this decision.
We think Franklin Graham is the person who can resolve this issue. Jennifer Mauney, KC4LWX has obtained the contact information for Franklin Graham's executive secretary who screens his email.  She spoke with her today about this issue and believes that he is not aware of this decision, and that we should contact him.  
 
We need County EOC directors, ARRL representatives, SKYWARN representatives, NWS representatives and Amateur Radio Affiliated Club Officers to respond.  Anyone with or without adjectives after their name needs to contact Franklin Graham. 
 
I have attached a letter that you might consider using as a template to send.  However, nothing will substitute for your own words.

Please keep your communication professional and to the point.  There are no personalities in this issue. Simply a great deal of lost value to the amateur community if these repeaters go away.  Lets keep that our message.
 
Time is of the upmost importance.  
Franklin is returning today (6.11.09) but will be leaving town over the weekend.
His secretary asked that we email him at this address:
The phone number is 800-528-1980
 
Dean Blair ~ k2jb
WCARS
 
Contacting Alice Knighten directly may or may not be the most effective thing to do at this point. However, here is her contact info 
Alice Knighten  aknighten@brb.org 
General Manager
PO Box 159
Black Mountain, NC  28711
Phone 828-285-8477
Fax 828-298-0117
 
Hi Dan,
 
Tonight I spoke with Randy Johnston, KE4RQL, who maintains the 145.190, 224.540 and 443.60 repeaters for Ken Woodard, WA4BVW on Mt Mitchell.

Ken was informed by WMIT Station Manger, Alice Knighten, whose facility houses Ken's repeaters, that ALL AMATEUR EQUIPMENT MUST BE REMOVED FROM THEIR FACILITY BY JULY 31, 2009.  The building where these repeaters are housed also houses the 442.225 and 53.63 N4YR repeaters which will also be affected.  As Randy understands it, the building where these repeaters are housed belongs to WMIT.  The property is Forest Service property.
 
Randy spoke with Alice Knighten to inquire as to the reasons for their decision.  The only explanation given was that Amateur Radio was outdated technology and it no longer fit with the direction the station was going and that the only equipment that will be permitted would be FBI, CIA or Homeland Security UNLESS, they wanted to pay $1,000 per month per antenna at the site.  Their position was non-negotiable.  Amateur Radio equipment has always been permitted there per gratis and always under the direction and supervision of WMIT Station Engineers with regard to physical location, feedline and antenna placement.
 
As you personally know, Amateur Radio has been active on Mt. Mitchell since 1982 and no doubt you checked into the first net Phil Haga, KA4CAC called just as I did. It is all about to end unless we can educate the current management of WMIT.  For 27 years the public has benefited and been served in untold ways.  For Amateur Radio to be summarily discharged from that critical site without explanation or consideration of its public service value seems to be an uninformed decision at best and myopic to say the least.
 
Therefore, on Randy's behalf and with his permission, I am officially requesting any suggestions, assistance or influence the ARRL might be able to provide to influence an amicably resolution to this dilemma for Amateur Radio on Mt Mitchell.
 
 
Best Regards,
Dean Blair, K2JB
President, Western Carolina Amateur Radio Society
828-423-3082
 
 
Well there it is !!!!  Is it for the money? or are they that lost about amateur radio !!

This will be posted as alway's on the 470ARG website so all can see..  I feel WIMT maybe having some finacial issues, as they should relize the possible danger of communications they are removing may hurt the coverage area of the repeaters,in case of a disaster or a emergency, the fact that $1000.00 per month I feel show's it's about money... I maybe wrong but that's how I see it, we are very lucky to have the 145.470 that cover's our area with the great foot print it has, and all the work that Tim Berry does for the area with all his repeaters...Dean I hope that there will be a way to resolve the issues and I will be sending letters out also as a ham operater, and EC for Sevier County Tennessee...
Rick Sawaya Sr
 

-- 
Rick Sawaya Sr  N4JTQ 

Unbelievable.  Despite amateur radio's community service during Hurricane Katrina, and the many times amateur radio has been called upon during earthquakes, the Tsunami in Sri Lanka and India, and even during times when 911 goes offline, amateur radio is there.  Yet we are still "antiquated", we are still considered old hat, and respect is still hard to come by.

It never ceases to amaze me how those in the broadcasting and communications industry still view amateur radio with contempt.

So now, another challenge besets amateur radio.  More than just staking a claim on a mountaintop, it's an issue of reputation and respect.  Hams need to show their solidarity and support and back up their right to be on the air with the facts as they speak volumes for the service amateur radio provides.

I will be composing my letter this weekend.  

Alice Knighten -  aknighten@brb.org 
General Manager
Blue Ridge Broadcasting

Franklin Graham - rwinkler@samaritan.org

Watch the QRZ forum for more info (you do not need to be registered to view the forum).

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