Lupito Flores, longtime station manager and the only paid employee of the community radio station KYRS, resigned last week, according to the broadcaster’s board of directors.
The decision was driven by a tight budget outlook for 2020 and was made by Flores, said William Berry, chairman of the KYRS board.
“The budget is tight. We needed to trim his salary,” said Berry, adding that what Flores was being paid was not enough for the amount of work he was doing. “He chose not to continue. He’s the founder, the life and soul, basically of the station. He will be missed a lot.”
Efforts to reach Flores for comment last week were unsuccessful. The station informed members of the staffing change in an email Wednesday. Michael Moon Bear, who has held several positions with the station, will serve as interim station manager.
Flores was the founder of KYRS, which began with a 100-watt signal headquartered in the Community Building on the eastern edge of downtown in October 2003. Flores applied for a license from the Federal Communications Commission, which was soliciting bids for low-power, community nonprofit radio stations.
KYRS, which stands for K-Yours in a reflection of the station’s community-focused programming, began transmitting over 95.3-FM. Its signal conflicted with Sandpoint’s KPND adult alternative station, and in November 2006 switched to 89.9-FM. In 2011, the station received a grant to boost power to 6,800 watts and changed locations on the dial once again to its current home, 88.1-FM, with a translator on 92.3-FM.
Programming has been left to volunteers, and the station currently broadcasts local talk, music and cultural programs. For some time, it served as the only broadcaster of a local news program geared toward the region’s Native American populations outside the reservations.
“We want to focus on local talent, local music, local perspective,” Flores told The Spokesman-Review in 2013, on the 10th anniversary of the station’s first broadcast. “The mission, really, is to provide programming to underserved populations, the voices that normally get left out of the nightly news.”
Paul Potocky, host of the news talk program SOS-Spokane that airs Thursday afternoons, said last week the station owed a debt to Flores.
“I cannot say enough about Lupito and his work in establishing this station and maintaining it throughout the years,” Potocky said.
Financial filings show the station has posted losses of about $26,000 in 2017 and $33,000 in 2018. During those years, Flores was the only station employee drawing a salary, according to the station’s IRS filings. Flores earned $37,475 for his work in 2017 and $39,444 in 2018, according to those records.
Despite the financial challenges, Berry said, KYRS is well-positioned to boost its membership in the coming years, with a $100,000 grant from the state Legislature and a new programming agreement with the downtown Spokane library.
Berry said last week the board would establish a hiring process for a new station manager.
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