“Auburn mafia” helping Nevada City’s KVMR station to grow

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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While Nevada City is both physical and spiritual home to regional community radio kingpin KVMR, Auburn residents have taken on a leadership role. And as the FM station expands its coverage strength with a new signal from Willows and KVMR ups the wattage on fundraising for a new, expanded headquarters, the Placer County connection will be crucial players in its future. KVMR board president Michael Young, a Nevada City resident, said three of 12 members of the board – accountant Barbara Jicha, attorney Jim Bunnell and educator Sue Lunsford – hail from Auburn. Additionally, a fourth board member – artist Larry Ortiz – has been a long-time presence on the Auburn arts scene, including sharing studio space and teaching at the Arts Building in Downtown Auburn. Young said the group is jokingly described as the board’s “Auburn mafia” but they represent the regional pull of a station that is now moving toward an important new step in its history. KVMR 89.5 FM and the Nevada Theatre recently unveiled to the public their proposed joint project to build a new radio station with increased backstage area of the site of the three “tin barns” behind the historic theater in downtown Nevada City. The project, which already has $1.5 million raised and needs another $1.5 million, entails hand-disassembling the three sheds, which are in danger of collapse, and reusing the exterior tin and useable interior wooden beams. The end result would be construction of a 7,920 square-foot two-story building for studios, offices and theater backstage area. The project is expected to go before the city for its approval process in the next few months, with construction scheduled to start in 2013 and occupancy in 2014. “Everyone who donates gets their name on the building,” Young said “This is going to be our generation’s contribution to historic downtown Nevada City.” KVMR provides an eclectic mix of programming 24 hours a day and draws volunteer presenters from the region, including Placer County Water Agency General Manager David Breninger, whose “Old Radio Theater” is one of the longest-running programs on the station airwaves. Station General Manager David Levine said the KVMR signal reaches the whole of Auburn and stretches into Sacramento County as far as Vacaville. While the station is based in Nevada City, 70 percent of its listenership is outside the Nevada City area, Levine said. The Willows location will be a full-service station and not a repeater like one tried in Auburn about a decade ago and the one that exists in Truckee. For more information on donating to the building project, contact or station development director Briana Ezzell at (530) 265-9073.