Tunes to flow again in Uniontown

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The charity of a Demopolis native has helped put a radio station back on the air; figuring out why the need for charity is still a mystery.

On June 7, Charles Jones Jr. was notified that his Uniontown radio station, WVFG-107.5 FM, burned to the ground. Officials with the Alabama Fire Marshal’s office were called in to investigate and, two weeks later, they still have made no judgment on the blaze.

The fire, which apparently started from both ends of the office, destroyed the transmitter and knocked the radio station from the air. According to FCC laws, a station can be “dark” for only 12 months before the FCC drops the station’s license. In the case of 107.5 FM — a 6,000-watt station — Jones estimated a new transmitter would cost at least $50,000.

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Henry Smith III, a native of Demopolis who now works in Indiana, read about the fire when a story appeared in The Times and made contact with Jones.

“After he read it, he called and offered to loan me a 1,000-watt transmitter,” Jones said of Smith.

With the charity, Jones expects his radio station to be back on the air this week, though the signal will be much weaker than normal.

“We’ll probably only be able to cover the Uniontown area, but it’s something,” Jones said.

Using the loaned transmitter only postpones the decision facing Jones. For starters, Jones isn’t sure whether or not this will delay the FCC’s mandatory 12-month “dark” period.

“I’m going to have to find out about that,” he said. “I don’t know if you can come back with a weaker signal than you had and keep the license.”

Though Smith’s help will put 107.5 FM back on the air, Jones still wants to bring back the station as powerful as it once was. Meanwhile, Jones also wants state officials to make a determination about the cause of the fire.

“They haven’t told me much,” he said. “I think they are chasing one lead.”

Attempts to reach the State Fire Marshal were unsuccessful Monday. A receptionist said the media spokesman would not be in the office for much of the week.