Picture brightens for GrassRoots TV | AspenTimes.com

Picture brightens for GrassRoots TV

John Colson

The newly reconstituted board of directors for Aspen’s community television station will hold its first meeting at noon today at the Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center board room.

The session marks what station manager Sean Sunkel called “the beginning of the beginning” for the beleaguered station.

GrassRoots TV has six new board members and recently hired a new employee to work alongside Sunkel, as it prepares to lift itself out of the organizational slump that it fell into last year.

“We’re so excited for the potential for the station. It’s such a blank slate,” said board member Bonnie Kowar, who has been on the board through the last year-and-a-half or so of reorganization and revitalization efforts.

GrassRoots TV, believed to be the oldest community access station in the United States, ran into trouble in 1998 when almost the entire board of directors resigned. Those who remained discovered that the station’s tax returns had not been filed in years, and viewers began to criticize the station’s programming efforts.

Sunkel, who had been at the station for less than a year at the time, was faced with reviving the station’s fortunes with the help of the three most recently appointed board members – Pitkin County Commissioner Shellie Harper, event coordinator Bonnie Kowar and attorney Jim True.

Sunkel announced on Tuesday that, in the seven months since the resignation of the board, the station’s board and staff have managed to: Rewrite the station’s bylaws. Interview 11 prospective board members and sign up six of the prospects. Hike the station’s revenues by $41,000. Start the process of upgrading the equipment, some of which was purchased when President Ronald Reagan was in his first term. Successfully negotiate with three local governments (Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County) for the installation of permanent video equipment in local meeting rooms. Upgrade the station’s accounting procedures. Negotiate an agreement with TCI Cablevision for permanent installations of cable equipment for live broadcasts from the Wheeler Opera House. The new board consists of Harper, Kowar and True, as well as Tammie Dauson, executive director of Aspen Theater in the Park; attorney David Mueller; real estate broker Cathi Rowley; Dr. David Singer; attorney John Starr, a part-owner of The Aspen Times; and art consultant Harry Temple.

In addition, Sunkel said, the station has created a new position, known as GrassRoots Television ambassador, to be filled by longtime local Betty Grindlay.

Sunkel said the station’s bylaws, besides clearly spelling out the duties and responsibilities of board members, allows for a total membership of anywhere between seven and 11 board members. There are, however, currently no plans to increase the size of the board, he said.

On the board’s agenda today is a tour of the station and a press conference.

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