In Pawling, change is in the air, or more specifically, in the airwaves. Pawling Public Radio (PPR/WPWL) 103.7 is receiving a major upgrade as the station readies for the construction of its new 140-foot broadcast tower. Once the construction is complete, public radio in the area will never be the same again.
Pawling Public Radio has been a local institution since its founding in 2007. A non-profit organization, the station is run entirely by volunteers with the exception of professional broadcast and production engineers. PPR’s focus is to produce and broadcast original programming with an emphasis on culture and education, as well as the local community. Programming includes over 40 original shows by more than 50 different contributors on a variety of topics, including sports, medicine, nutrition, religion, the arts, travel, and finance, as well as a number of music programs. Their commitment to education includes programming for young children, as well as internships for high school and college students.
Since January of 2010, the station’s website, www.pawlingradio.org, has received more than 130,000 visitors for listeners wishing to stream content via the Internet. With a solid audience base established, it was time for Pawling Public Radio to expand.
In 2014, the station was granted an FCC license for an antenna site on Pleasant Ridge Road in Wingdale. That same year, WPWL received a grant from the Oliver S. and Jennie R. Donaldson Charitable Trust that was sufficient to cover the $30,000 cost of the new braodcast tower. In 2015, the station would make use of temporary antenna at the site to test the broadcast signal. Following site approval from the Dover Planning and Zoning Boards, construction was finally ready to begin. WPWL retained the service of DC Engineering to manage the site work, and tasked tower construction specialist John Cravello to erect the tower. As summer turned to fall, the groundwork and excavation was competed, and concrete for the tower’s foundation has been poured and cured. The station is still coordinating with the project engineer, but is confident that construction will be finished by Thanksgiving.
Once completed, the 140-foot Rohn 45G steel broadcast tower will change the landscape of Pawling Public Radio. The station estimates that 103.7 will reach upwards of 150,000 listeners in a 10- to 15-mile radius from the tower. This area will include Pawling, Dover, Beekman, East Fishkill, LaGrange, Patterson, and some areas of western Connecticut.
With the new broadcast range will come new opportunities for WPWL. In addition to continuing their four hours of live broadcasting each day, the station will be able to lease space to local organizations. In addition, the station will embrace the municipalities in the new broadcast range, attracting new volunteers and programming. “Once the antenna is up, we’ll really have a lot of new opportunities,” says WPWL Board of Directors Chairman Bill Bonecutter. The station will also begin to explore the idea of airing a full news hour seven days a week during commute times.
With the station’s newly expanded broadcast area, the potential to create new listeners is enormous. Bill Bonecutter praised the dedication of all the volunteers who have worked at the station, as well as the generosity of those who have donated to WPWL. “The station has evolved so much over the last 10 years,” he says. “There have been so many people along the way who have helped us get to where we are today.”