Ten months and 20 days. That’s how long the Yakama Nation’s radio station had been off the air after burglars stripped it of vital equipment.
On Thursday, DJ Roy Dick finally returned to his morning show, thanks to a makeshift system that relies on analog radio transmission.
“It was the first full day back on the air,” he said. “I’m glad I got on air this morning. I guess I had about 20 listeners.”
In October, burglars kicked in a wall-mounted air-conditioner to gain access into the KYNR 1490-AM station at 711 King Lane in Toppenish.
They took the station’s control board, three microphones, three printers, a CD player and the station’s emergency alert system. Dick estimated the loss at about $20,000.
News about the break-in reverberated across the country, with other tribes and the Federal Communications Commission inquiring about the incident.
FCC officials wanted to know whether the theft was an attempt to impede the station’s ability to inform the public.
Dick thought the break-in may have been the work of someone wanting to start their own recording studio or to sell the equipment for drug money.
After the break-in, the station remodeled the control room.
“They just totally demolished everything in the room, so we just remodeled,” Dick said.
But progress was held up by the lack of a control board.
One ordered from out of state took months to arrive. Once it did, the engineer couldn’t program it and sent it back, Dick said.
The station is awaiting the arrival of another one, he said.
Dick said a friend in Yakima had a remedy — a mixing board that could get the station back on air, but with fewer channels.
“He came down and brought that mixer and we started hooking stuff up,” he said.
Using the mixer required the station to revert from a digital to an analog signal, Dick said.
Station manager Reggie George said it felt good being back on the air.
George’s afternoon show returned at 2 p.m. Thursday. He tossed in a CD and hit play and a song began to air.
A smile crossed on his face as he gazed at the CD’s cover.
“It wasn’t my plan to play a tribute CD,” he said, noting that he popped in a Brooks and Dunn song. “I meant to play ZZ Top.”
Dick said tribal leaders had hoped the station would have been back on air in time for the high school state basketball tournament, in which the Yakama Tribal School placed second.
But the station will be ready to cover the Tribal School’s football season, George said.
“A lot of people have been waiting for it,” he said. “Slowly we’re getting back together again.”