Moffat County television viewers who don't have cable or satellite service found only static on their screens when they tried to tune in to Denver stations Thursday.
"I'm a stay-at-home mom. I can't afford cable. This was my only connection to news and the outside world," said Tamera Floyd.
The static was a tangible result of Moffat County budget cuts. To balance the 2004 budget, the Board of Commissioners discontinued payments to UVTV, the company that relayed the Denver stations' signals to Moffat County.
At Hutton's Radio Communica-tions, the phone rang incessantly as people called to complain about the lack of service. Business owner Les Hutton maintains the county's translators.
By 2 p.m., Rose Hutton said she had received 20 complains. Many of them were senior citizens who said they couldn't afford cable or a satellite dish.
Gena Hinkemeyer, assistant to the commissioners, said she had received nine complaints about the discontinuation of county television service. Four of those people identified themselves as senior citizens who couldn't afford any other television service.
Some voiced concern that they had no way of being notified of emergencies, and others were just disappointed they didn't have television.
"From the beginning, we said the Denver stations wouldn't stay on," said Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos. Raftopoulos said the county could have done a better job advertising the discontinuation of service.
Payments to UVTV cost the county about $3,200 per month, Raftopoulos said. Most Colorado rural counties have already stopped paying to transmit television signals, she said.
Moffat County television station K-27 was still on the air Wednesday. On Tuesday, K-27 owner Jerry Thompson reached a verbal agreement with the commissioners to continue broadcasting his station for the next 90 days while Moffat County attorney Kathleen Taylor finished drawing leases for the county's translators.
Raftopoulos said it is her hope that Thompson is able to sublease the translators to the Denver stations.
Rick Kraddock of KCNC, Channel 4, said he did not know Moffat County was going to cut television service.
Nor did he know if his station had any plans to seek alternative sources to broadcast their signal. Representatives from other Denver stations could not be reached for comment. To fill the void left by the absence of the major television affiliates, K-27, which has always featured "all-hunting, all-fishing" broadcasts, will partner with the America One Television Network to broadcast a wider range of programming, said Michelle McKnight, K-27 program director.
America One broadcasts news, movies, and sporting events among other programming, McKnight said. The network is similar to NBC or ABC, only smaller. "We're still on the airways and doing the best we can to reconcile the situation," she said.
K-27 should begin airing America One programming by Saturday at the latest. McKnight said the television station would continue to broadcast local news and sports.
McKnight said she had been working to contact Denver stations about their interest in continuing to broadcast in Moffat County, but she had not yet received any feedback.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.