JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Aaron Mahi throws salt from an umeke during a blessing for the site of KIPO Hawaii Public Radio's new 110-foot tall STL antenna yesterday at the top of Tantalus Drive. Among the attendees was HPR president Michael Titterton at far right.
New tower site blessed for HPR
Aaron Mahi's Hawaiian prayer rose in volume, the wind whooshed and light sprinkles at once surged to pelting rain -- and both eased as his voice softened. As the sun broke through, the bamboo-surrounded Pu'u 'Ohi'a (Tantalus) site for a new Hawaii Public Radio transmitter was officially blessed.
Yesterday's blessing by Mahi, former Royal Hawaiian Band director and former HPR board member, raised planny chicken skin among the roughly two dozen people gathered under a tent belonging to the tower contractor.
The event marked a milestone for HPR because of struggles KIPO-FM 89.3 has had since it signed on in 1989.
It fired up at its full, authorized power of 100,000 watts, but was ordered to power down after five hours as the signal interfered with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission's monitoring station.
It has since been running at 3,000 watts, insufficient power to get the signal to much of Oahu. Many listeners must tune in to its online stream or via Oceanic Time Warner Cable on digital channel 865.
Station officials spent years exploring other options and decided about five years ago to seek permission to build a new tower and transmitter adjacent to an existing wireless communications tower. HPR did not want to disrupt "virgin" land, said President Michael Titterton.
The site already had an access road and a gate that can be locked, required by the FCC for public safety. Most importantly, the site provides the line of sight the signal needs for better reception.
KIPO, which broadcasts news and eclectic music programs, is "a service that people haven't yet killed for, but had this process gone on much longer ..." Titterton joked, in remarks before the blessing.
He thanked all involved in the years-long process, especially the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, "for providing us with a wonderful education on how to deal with bureaucracy," drawing a knowing chuckle from insiders.
Construction on the 110-foot tower and transmitter building will be finished in about four months, weather permitting, said Richard Page, president of Sand Island-based Eagle Construction Co. Ltd.
The 20-foot-by-30-foot transmitter building will house broadcast equipment and will have an exterior generator to power the tower in the event of an outage.
KIPO will be able to pump 26,000 watts of islandwide signal from the new site.
Though the date that will commence is unknown at the moment, Titterton said, "by fall we're going to be speaking with a much clearer voice."
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org