RANGELEY — Listen up, Rangeley. It’s time to tune in to 90.5 FM. WRGY, the town’s community radio station, is off and running.

Still in its infancy, the station is evolving.

It may be very different a year from now than it is today, said Dr. Dave McMillan, a local dentist and entrepreneur, who has been working on getting a Federal Communications Commission license for a community radio station in Rangeley for three to four years.

With the help of a grant from the Maine Community Foundation, the station became a reality and started broadcasting Oct. 1, 2010. It is in the storefront at Lakeside Theater on Main Street and feeds through the Internet to the transmission tower at the top of the Kennebago Quad Lift at Saddleback Mountain.

Community radio is vastly different from commercial radio because programming is not dictated, nor do they rely on advertising. Community radio relies on grant money, memberships, sponsorships and donations — much like Maine Public Radio. And as WRGY responds to the needs of the community, McMillan hopes the community will come through with financial support. He anticipates holding a membership drive this summer.

The station is a low frequency transmission station, with its 50-watt signal going as far west as Errol, N.H., east to Stratton, and south to Smalls Falls, with spotty coverage in Madrid and Phillips. And with that coverage area, the Flagstaff Area Business Association is looking forward to working with the station to promote Polar Blast and other community events in the Eustis area.

There was almost nothing available on the radio here, McMillan said. There was a signal from WTOS, and a few Canadian signals, but nothing local. There was no timely voice for Rangeley to know if the school was closed, or whether it’s safe to drive down Route 4 during an ice storm, he said. The station also serves as the town’s emergency communication vehicle.

Eclectic is the word that best describes the station. Programming ranges from Celtic and classical to jazz and bluegrass, to adult contemporary and music from the 1950s and ’60s. Jerome Guevremont, nicknamed “Frenchie,” does a top-of-the-hour weather spoof that airs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

The Rangeley school has formed a radio group of seven high- and middle-school students. They put together a play list and then dedicate the songs to someone from the school.

It’s a win-win for them.

“They tie into technology that they love, and they’re telling the rest of the town what is going on in school,” Lissa Gumprect, station manager and the only paid employee, said. “It’s been four months, and I’m still learning.” With a background in marketing and communications, she’s had no formal training in radio. “I’m a bit of a ham, anyways,” she said, “and I just love this.”

She uses a specialized computer program to put together the programming. While she does pick up some stock recordings, like the Discovery Channel’s “Earth and Sky,” other programming needs tweaking. They can be a little long or a little short and they have to fit into a time slot. And she works to blend programming together so people aren’t hearing a J Giles song right after Judy Collins. Programming is listed on their Web site, www.wrgy.org.

Rangeley is a very eclectic artistic community, she said, and the station is designed to reflect that same diversity. There’s a wide range of people visiting here from all over the country and world. Others want to stay connected when they leave the area. For them, there are plans to stream the station via the Internet.

WRGY is volunteer driven. Ernie Gurney has lent the station an extensive collection of Celtic and classical music. He works at New Beginnings in Farmington, but finds time to develop programming. And what the station can do in the future depends upon the volunteers.

There are a lot of great ideas for shows, Gumprect said. “We tell people come on down to the studio and create it.”

One volunteer helped do a live broadcast when Gov. Paul LePage was at Loon Lodge in January. They hope to do more live broadcasts, and telecast the school board, selectmen and interviews with performing artists, maybe even the Doobie Brothers, who are coming to Rangeley on July 30.

There’s a lot of activity here and no centralized timely way to get that information out, McMillan said. “There’s so much rumor going around Rangeley. We needed a good timely way to get the facts so they can hear the news, rather than what they heard on the street,” he said.

They have about five consistent volunteers who help with programming and about 20 who help with random projects. Volunteers are greatly needed, he said, and they can help with the programming from home. They don’t need to be at the station every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Gumprect said.


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