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Radio talk show idea gets good reception from Irwin council

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Robert Stevens knows that getting people interested in local government can often be difficult. But he's hoping to use the power of the airwaves to get residents in the Norwin area more engaged in their communities.

Stevens, who has owned radio station WKHB 94.1 FM/620 AM since 1996, is developing a weekly half-hour public affairs program featuring local municipal and school officials. The station broadcasts from studios in North Versailles.

“People are so preoccupied with other things in their lives that it can be tricky to get them interested in what's going on in their communities, whether it's crime or the decisions made by local government leaders,” Stevens said. “So I'd like to develop some programming that creates more awareness of local issues.”

The stations, which are simulcast on the FM and AM bands, currently broadcast a mix of daytime talk — mostly related to health and medical issues; recitation of the Rosary from 7 to 7:15 p.m.; and “classic hits” oldies music through the evening and overnight.

So far, Stevens has approached officials in North Huntingdon and Irwin about their interest in participating in the free 30-minute program, which likely would be prerecorded for broadcast. A day and time slot for the show has not been established, but Stevens hopes to launch the program by summer.

Stevens said he has not yet contacted North Irwin or the Norwin school officials to gauge their interest in participating.

“We'd like to have all the communities involved,” he said. “And the school district has a lot going, so this could be a good way for them to let people know what's happening.”

During a discussion about Stevens' offer at a recent Irwin Council meeting, members were generally warm to the idea.

However, they raised concerns about making such a commitment if the school district and other Norwin municipalities are not involved.

“I think half an hour is way too much time to fill on our own,” Councilwoman Gail Macioce said. Councilman John Cassandro agreed.

“I could easily talk for half an hour about the Lamp Theater project, but then what do you do?” said Cassandro, who is helping to coordinate efforts to redevelop the former movie house into a community theater.

If the borough agrees to participate, council would consider forming a committee to help develop topics for broadcast and coordinate the people available to record segments, Wayman said.

Rich Gray, chairman of the North Huntingdon board of commissioners, said he has discussed the program with Stevens and is intrigued by the idea, but would like to see participation from other communities and the school district.

Gray said the issue likely would be put on the agenda for public discussion in May.

Stevens said he will take a wait-and-see approach.

“I'd love to see each community and the school district involved,” Stevens said. “But I'll leave it up to them to come to some sort of consensus on what they want to talk about and the amount of time they need.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626 or at tlarussa@tribweb.com

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