Federal government shutdown has unexpected effect on Belfast

Posted Oct. 02, 2013, at 6:45 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum figured that the most immediate effects of the federal government shutdown on the midcoast city would come from trickle-down economics.

That would have been bad enough, he said Wednesday.

“We are all so interconnected in this state, every 20 dollar bill matters,” Slocum said.

But he hadn’t realized that Belfast’s rare opportunity to apply for a license for a low-power FM radio station would be affected, too. The last time the government opened up for applications for the low-power radio licenses was 11 years ago, at which time Rockland obtained one and began WRFR-FM.

Slocum noted that Belfast will have to complete its application by Oct. 15, but the complex document is only available online. Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission’s website is down. He heard that in the case of a government shutdown, filing dates might be extended — by just one day.

“We can’t even look at it today,” he said.

Slocum described the effort to get the application filled out as a “race against time.”

City officials learned from a community member about the FCC’s open-application period. Having a community radio station that would broadcast within a 10-mile radius might provide another opportunity to connect residents with information.

“You could build your boat or work in your shop and listen to a council meeting,” Slocum said. “We don’t want to lose this opportunity for Belfast.”

The fact that the application is jeopardized by the shutdown is frustrating, he said.

“It makes us look foolish,” he said of the political action. “I can’t explain this. I don’t even understand it.”

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