PBS to seek deferred maintenance funds from Legislature

Aug 5, 2012 By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

Station's general manager plans to use the money to replace aging equipment.

The Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees approved sending the Wyoming PBS general manager to the State Joint Appropriations committee next year to seek funds for deferred maintenance. The decision came July 18, after debating whether or not the request was appropriate.

Trustees Judy Pedersen and Frank Welty voted against the motion for a couple of reasons.

Pedersen said she did not want CWC and WPBS to be seen as "people who just want money all the time."

"I'm sort of concerned about appearances, I guess," she said.

Welty, too, had problems with the station requesting state funds.

"I do support PBS as you know," Welty said. "And I do watch it, and I enjoy it."

Being a public broadcasting station, WPBS receives money each year from the state and the federal government.

In a written report to the board, station general manager Ruby Calvert said the station has received $10.5 million in state funds in the last 12 years. She also wrote that there are no longer federal grants available for equipment repair or replacement.

Calvert explained during the meeting that her desire to seek additional funding was at the suggestion of Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie.

She said much of the station's digital equipment was purchased between 2003 and 2005.

"We can see the end of its useful life coming," she said.

Calvert said Nicholas encouraged her to return to the JAC at the start of 2013 with a plan to replace the aging equipment.

The request she said she would like to bring before the committee was for an equivalent of 1 percent of WPBS's equipment assets of $117,670 for fiscal year 2014.

She said she felt obligated to bring the request to the committee because she was asked to, although she realized given the possible 8 percent cuts in state budgets she might get "laughed out of JAC."

"When do we stop throwing money at it?" Pedersen asked about equipment.

"I thought about that," Calvert responded. "$100,000 is not going to replace a huge piece of equipment."

She said the money requested would fund repairs or replacement of smaller pieces of equipment.

"I'm kind of banking on the fact that we just replaced a major server that we had a grant for," Calvert said.

She said stations across the country are beginning to merge and share master controls to help with equipment costs.

"I think that's going to be a possibility," she said of WPBS merging equipment with another station.

Pedersen said the station has a small number of "subscribers," and that because they weren't paying, WPBS needed to find other ways to find funding.

"It depends on how committed we are to providing education for kids," Calvert responded. "What's important to you as a citizen? You're right, there's going to be a 30 percent turnover in legislators this year. ... It will be difficult to tell our story. I think CWC does an incredible job. And frankly it's not a big piece of the state budget. But you make a good judgment. ... I don't think I should be perceived as a threat to CWC's funding."

Trustee Roger Gose said public broadcasting is the "best investment after national defense," and he believes state legislators understand its importance.

"As general manager for Wyoming PBS, I have to do this," Calvert said. "I think it's important."

Trustee Scott Phister agreed.

"We think Wyoming PBS is a good thing," he said. "We don't hire someone to do the job, and then tie their hands behind their back. You can't say, 'Go do a good job,' and then say 'We're going to shoot you down for anything (you) come forward to us with.'"

Trustee Colton Crane expanded on Phister's thoughts.

"A decision to stop public television is not made at this level," he said. "I don't ever watch it. I did when I was a kid, and I thought it was great. I agree, if we want you to do your job, we've got to give you the tools to do it."

Trustee Charlie Krebs said deferred maintenance is important for any business, and Calvert's request is the prudent thing to do.

Print Story
Read The Ranger...