WOAK FM radio station still recovering from tower collapse one year later; planning fundraiser

Published 9:00 am Friday, October 15, 2021

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A year after a construction accident caused extensive damage to the WOAK-FM radio station, the station is still trying to make the needed repairs to bring the Christian station back to its former glory.

In late 2020, the WOAK-FM 325-foot broadcast tower was destroyed in a construction site accident leaving behind a trail of destruction and a financial setback for the non-profit, Christian listener-supported station.

While no one was hurt during the accident, the tower’s steel construction not only demolished itself but the debris also damaged the station’s transmitting system, including a 3400-watt FM radio transmitter, the lighting and cabling systems, as well as the audio processing equipment housed in the transmitting building below, said the station’s general manager, Bill Thrasher.

“We’re looking close to $300,000 to replace the tower plus the equipment inside the transmitter building,” he said.

The station’s leadership filed a claim with the construction company’s insurance carrier at the time but is still awaiting a settlement.

The insurance company insuring the construction company did immediately approve the station with an advance payment of $13,000 to make temporary repairs, but to date, the insurance company has only offered WOAK a third of the replacement cost for rebuilding the broadcast tower, replacing the FM transmitter antenna systems and other essential equipment needs.

While the station has maintained limited operations by renting tower space on a nearby radio tower and using a low-powered mono transmitter to remain on-air, the limited operating power has greatly reduced the station’s broadcast reach throughout West Central Georgia and Eastern Alabama.

“We’re about one-fourth of the power that we would normally be at,” Thrasher said.

“Our signal’s been in mono instead of stereo so that affects the bandwidth on the FM dial, which doesn’t help your signal at all …especially when you play music. No home from West Point on has been able to pick up the station.”

Thrasher estimates that roughly 5,000 people listen actively to WOAK. Along with its Christian music format, the station also features special bible speakers such as Charles Stanley and Adrian Rogers.

The station’s Board of Trustees and leadership has hoped for a quick settlement with the construction company’s insurance carrier in late 2020, but negotiations between WOAK and the insurance company have failed to date to reach an equitable settlement, Thrasher said.

In light of this, WOAK has decided not to wait any longer on a settlement with the insurance company but to press forward in restoring part of the station’s transmitting system by purchasing a new solid-state FM radio transmitter at a cost of $44,000 and a new FM antenna system costing approximately $17,500.

The board further decided to wait until a settlement has been reached with the insurance company to being the construction of a new 325-foot broadcast tower.

In order to fund the purchase of a new transmitter and antenna system, the station’s leadership has scheduled a fundraising event on Friday, Oct. 29 on 90.9 FM in raising $50,000 to assist with these purchases.

Local pastors and churches are being asked to participate in a one-day Pastors’ Lock-in at the Oakside Gymnasium at 1921 Hamilton Road in LaGrange to assist in pledge support.

Anyone who would like to donate to WOAK’s recovery fund may send donations to WOAK Radio, 1921 Hamilton Road, LaGrange, GA, 30241.

WOAK asked that checks or money orders be marked “Recovery Fund.”