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Northern Community Radio: KBXE breaks ground for new tower

Staff and board members of KAXE/KBXE Northern Community Radio break ground on a rainy afternoon Tuesday for the new broadcast tower near Shevlin. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

Warned away from the edge of the excavation by contractors from Lundgren Backhoe of Bagley, staff and board members of KBXE in Bagley/Bemidji and KAXE in Grand Rapids/Brainerd opened a new page in local radio history.

As the rain fell Tuesday afternoon, the group held the symbolic groundbreaking in a 40-acre wasteland near Shevlin for the 499-foot tower that will carry KBXE signals.

Station General Manager Maggie Montgomery said the organizers looked for a long time for a tower site that would be suitable.

"It's an old gravel pit and staging area for road crews," she said. "It's not pristine land."

The land was also affordable, she said, for purchase from Wayne Thorson.

"They used to put their hot mix plant here," she said.

KBXE will broadcast from the Bemidji studio in the building where Harmony Natural Foods Coop relocated in June. The shows will be co-produced in both Bemidji and Grand Rapids. The on-the-air deadline according to the FCC license is March 23, but Montgomery said she hopes the first Bagley/Bemidji broadcasts will start sooner.

"I'm hoping for winter," s he said. "I'm hoping to have it on the air by January, a nice community radio station to keep you warm in January. But I'll take March."

The "B" in KBXE stands for Bagley and Bemidji, she said.

Knife River Materials is managing the concrete work for the guy wires, and the tower is designed by ERI, an Indiana engineering firm.

Jack Shelton, a KAXE/KBXE Board member, said the station is licensed out of Bagley. The idea is to broadcast a signal to the Bemidji area, as well as north of Bagley and west to Fosston. "Of course, we'll have lots of new listeners out this way because this area is not served by public radio," Shelton said. "And it's not just public radio -- it's community public radio."

Board member Charlie Parson said public radio reception is spotty in some places, although people can sometimes get reception with a car radio.

Montgomery said the estimated number of people without access to public radio in the northwestern rural area is 8,000.

Northern Community Radio out of Grand Rapids received its articles of incorporation from the state of Minnesota on Feb. 11, 1971. When KBXE goes on the air, it will have a range from Fosston to Duluth.