KTRU SALE: NO NEED FOR SNEAKY VISITS AFTER ALL Texas Watchdog has now released all the emails it collected related to the sale of Rice University radio station KTRU’s FM broadcast license and its not-so-shabby transmitter in Humble to the University of Houston. And for the local-radio-obsessed, there are plenty of repetitive conversations to pore through. A couple of the messages, though, bring a little more clarity to what happened after one of the deal’s brokers, Public Radio Capital director of acquisitions Erik Langner, suggested that Rice invent some pretext to allow a consulting engineer to inspect the station (which is run by students they didn’t want to tip off that a sale was likely to take place). It appears no subterfuge was needed, after all. “They brought the station manager and one or two of the key staff into the loop on the sale,” a colleague of Langner’s wrote to KUHF general manager John Proffitt about a month later. As Texas Watchdog reporter Steve Miller notes, Proffitt later identifies the KTRU staff members as the station’s general manager and chief engineer — both of whom are Rice employees. [Texas Watchdog; previously on Swamplot]
GETTING A GOOD LOOK AT KTRU WITHOUT TIPPING OFF STUDENTS Or: Beware of those “inspectors” the owner brings through. Emails obtained by Texas Watchdog detail a sneaky technique agents acting on behalf of Rice University may have used to put together the sale of student-run radio station KTRU to the University of Houston — without having complete access to the facilities. In an email sent in May of this year to another broker representing the university in the still top-secret transaction, the director of acquisitions of Public Radio Capital suggested a way to put together a complete list of the station’s assets without “tipping off” the students in charge of the station that a sale was being negotiated: “We request that Rice provide a cover story for an independent 3rd party engineering consultant, to be chosen by UH, to perform an inspection of the transmitter building, transmitter equipment, transmission line, tower and antennae. Rice should actually hire the consultant we specify, so there will be no question as to the source of the inspection, which of course will have to be coordinated with the station engineer somehow. Rice can use any reason it chooses, some of which can include change of insurance, inventory needs, or any other plausible explanation.” Other emails indicate Rice officials had wanted to put KTRU up for sale 2 years ago; UH became interested in the station — now slated to broadcast in a classical-music format — early last year. [Texas Watchdog; previously on Swamplot] Late Update: Rice didn’t have to lie.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BAD PUBLICITY “Only in Houston would someone use a blog post about a building’s code violations to advertise FOR the building.” [JCoy, commenting on The Somewhat Public To-Do List Posted at 230 West Alabama]
COMPLETING THOSE WEST U FINAL INSPECTIONS Covington Builders will get to keep its license to build in West University after all. Ten homes the homebuilder had constructed since 2000 had never received occupancy permits from the city, but they’ve got ’em now. At issue on 7 of those homes: tree inspections. “‘They went to them and were able to determine what trees were there, measured the inches. I gave him some credit for some of the growth inches that were there, over time,’ [Chief Building Official John] Brown said. ‘He paid the tree trust the balance of money that was owed, which closed out his cases.’ Covington paid about $8,250 to the tree fund for the 82.5 tree inches that were missing on the seven outstanding properties. Before completing all the inspections, the city had estimated that Covington owed $10,300 to the tree fund.” [Instant News West U; previously on Swamplot]
Things have slowed down a bit in the West University Place building department: Only 20 new homes were permitted in the city last year. What to do with all the free time? Chief building official John Brown used some of it to pore over city records . . . and make a small discovery: Out of a grand total of 938 new homes built in West U this decade, 39 of them never received certificates of occupancy.
Instant News West U‘s Angela Grant reports that’s not so much of a problem yet for 5 of those homes — they were built in 2008 and haven’t sold. But what about the others?
Of the 34 homes that should legally have certificates, 14 homes — 41 percent — were constructed in 2000. Twenty-seven homes, or 79 percent, were constructed before 2005, when the city says the building department began professionalizing operations with the addition of key staff members.
How’d all this come up?
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