New GrassRoots board digs right in |

New GrassRoots board digs right in

GrassRoots Television, Aspen’s struggling nonprofit community TV station, has a new board, a new executive director, and revised bylaws.

With a mood of guarded optimism, the new board met for the first time Wednesday, airing the problems the station faces and setting short-term goals. The six board members present elevated station manager Shawn Sunkel to the post of executive director and promoted producer Corby Anderson to station manager.

Holdover board members Shellie Roy Harper, Jim True and Bonnie Kowar have been joined by Tammie Dauson of Aspen Theater in the Park, attorney David Mueller, real estate broker Cathi Rowley, optometrist David Singer, attorney John Starr (a part-owner of The Aspen Times) and art consultant Harry Temple. The previous GrassRoots board all but dissolved last November.

A long-term goal expressed by Sunkel is producing programming that would be carried on PBS and other networks. “But we couldn’t address the product until we faced all the other problems,” he said. Topping the list were the station’s finances and seating a new board of directors.

Revised bylaws, approved by Harper, True and Kowar in April, include a minimum meeting attendance requirement for board members to head off the apathy that allegedly led to the dissolution of the previous board.

The board of directors, as specified by the new bylaws, is to have between seven and 11 members, with a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. Board members also must participate in standing committees, including a fund-raising committee and a board-development committee.

Board members agreed they don’t want to elect officers until they get better acquainted with each other.

Sunkel said the organization’s most pressing problem is money for equipment, though there’s been some progress on that score. Sunkel organized the “RootsJam” event, which raised more than $20,000 for the station, and he has been lobbying for funds from local governments.

“We could be on the verge of a major equipment replacement because of constant complaining by me,” he said. Sunkel told the board the station really needs a professional-type video camera that has advanced sound capabilities – a camera that costs $7,000. Ideally, he said, a second such camera should be on hand as a backup.

Leading the board on a tour of the GrassRoots studio in the Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center, Sunkel pointed to various pieces of ancient, failing equipment. The station, in addition to cameras, currently needs microphones, connecting cables and lighting. The videotape-editing machine, while serviceable, needs replacement parts, he said.

The device that displays the Community Bulletin Board on televisions throughout town is “a real dinosaur,” Sunkel said. “This could die at any minute,” he warned.

“It’s a crime that in a community like this, we still have equipment like this,” Starr said.

Some equipment advances have, however, been made in recent months, Sunkel said. Previously, GrassRoots technicians had to dismantle the studio camera setup on a regular basis to haul cameras and sound equipment to meetings of the county commissioners and the Aspen and Snowmass Village councils. People were injured moving the 250-pound box, driving up the workman’s compensation insurance premiums for the station.

But that’s a thing of the past, Sunkel said, because permanent equipment has been installed in government meeting rooms.

Board members directed Sunkel, for the next meeting, to prepare a six-month schedule of meetings, a revised equipment wish list, an inventory of existing equipment and other assets, and a budget for the organization.

On the agenda for the next meeting, set for June 30, is a discussion of fund raising. Harper’s suggestion of a late-summer fund-raising event will be discussed.

Sunkel suggested a review of current programming and a discussion of the community’s programming needs for a future meeting.

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