PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend’s KPTZ 91.9 FM could call Fort Worden home in the coming years after it entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Fort Worden Public Development Authority.
It’s a move that its Interim General Manager Robert Ambrose said would improve the station’s signal, give staff and volunteers more space and provide long-term stability for the station.
“It’s very exciting for KPTZ, because at the board level we’ve known for two or three years now that we have needed to make some changes because our transmitter is on private land,” he said. “It was unclear whether we could keep it there indefinitely.”
The agreement highlights KPTZ’s interest in re-establishing its broadcasting studios and administrative offices in the basement of Building 305, the cornerstone facility in Fort Worden’s proposed Makers Square redevelopment project, and relocating the radio station’s transmitter tower to Artillery Hill.
KPTZ is a nonprofit, community radio station serving East Jefferson County.
Since May 2011, KPTZ has operated as a full-service, non-commercial educational station in the county, offering a variety of information and entertainment programs.
Ambrose said Wednesday that it’s still far from a done deal, but he’s optimistic the radio station will be able to relocate to Fort Worden.
He said the PDA needs to develop and amendment its 50-year master lease for the Lifelong Learning Center campus with Washington State Parks.
“The process of amending our master lease and incorporating a new tenant partner is one that takes time and collaboration,” Dave Robison, PDA executive director, said in a news release.
“Our three organizations will be working toward an agreeable solution over the next few months.”
KPTZ has eyed the location atop Artillery Hill as an alternative location for its transmitter since 2014.
In 1906 the U.S. Army had constructed a radio transmitter at the same spot.
Ambrose said if the station moves its transmitter to Artillery Hill, its listeners would get better reception throughout town.
“Because of the hills, our reception downtown is not very good,” he said. “People can’t listen to us in the center of town and that’s where a lot of people are.”
Ambrose said a move to Fort Worden also would mean moving into a much larger space. The portable KPTZ leases from the city of Port Townsend is 900 square feet and features closet-sized studios.
He said it can get crowded in the building, especially when there’s a band in the studio.
The portable has served KPTZ well, but an expansion is needed, he said.
A move to Fort Worden would mean expanding into an area that is 2,100 square feet, he said, adding the station would need to raise about $500,000 to make improvements to the building.
“It’s a lot different than fitting ourselves out in a school portable,” he said. “It’s actually constructing a real radio station.”
If an amendment to the master lease is approved, Ambrose is optimistic that raising $500,000 in a capital campaign wouldn’t be too difficult.
Ambrose said moving out of a portable would not only provide more space, but also would give the station a better chance of staying on air during an emergency, such as an earthquake.
“The portable isn’t safe if there’s an earthquake,” he said. “It doesn’t have a foundation.”
Ambrose said that if the plans move forward, he hopes the station could move in after about two years.
“I don’t think there could be a better placement for KPTZ’s studios,” he said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.