KCPW survived a roller-coaster ride with Salt Lake City Tuesday that ended with a dramatic rescue shortly after Mayor Ralph Becker threatened to block a second attempt by the City Council to loan bail-out money to the financially struggling public radio station.
Before the day was over, NPR-affiliate withdrew its loan application for up to $250,000 of city money and announced that an anonymous donor had stepped forward to lend it the money needed to avoid default on a loan due Nov. 1.
"It came as a complete surprise," said Ed Sweeney, president of the station's owner, Wasatch Public Media, in a letter to members and supporters, "and was offered because of the inability of the City to provide the short-term funding."
Attorneys for the city's Redevelopment Agency blocked as inappropriate a loan last week to KCPW that the City Council had approved in its role as RDA Board.
At a news conference Tuesday, Becker announced he would not support the Council's decision to use the city's Revolving Loan Fund because the fund is meant for businesses, not nonprofits.
Also, Becker said, the City Council had offered the loan without adequate research, little citizen comment and even against the advice of the RDA Loan Advisory Board.
"As I became aware of the request. It just didn't strike me as right for the city," Becker said. "That was my initial gut reaction on a loan being dealt with so quickly for a fair amount of money."
KCPW needed between $200,000 and $250,000 (depending on the success of its pledge drive) by Nov. 1 to pay off what remained of a $400,000 loan. That would allow the station to restructure $2.4 million in loans taken out in 2008 to buy the station's license. "It's giving us a little bit of breathing room," Sweeney said of the private loan.
Becker said he would support the City Council if it moves to set up a loan program for nonprofit organizations.
"We just do not have a framework in Salt Lake City for making a loan of this type," Becker said. "It would really make sense for the city to look into having some sort of loan or grant fund for nonprofit organizations. How that materializes, where the funds come from, I would enjoy working with the Council to come up with some sort of program."
Becker said he supports KCPW personally and has doubled his pledge to the station during the recent pledge drive from $100 to $200.