Repeater Rumination

Many of you are aware that I run a repeater based in Witmer PA.

The repeater recently had a yet to be determined malfunction, and it was only putting out a few milliwats of power, instead of its normal 25 watts, meaning RF coverage dropped from its respectable footprint detailed on the page linked above, to only covering a mile or so.

I have started working on repairs, and hope to get it up and running quickly, but I decided to sit down and write this blog post because I’ve been ruminating on a few things related to the repeater, and thought this would be a good way to collect my thoughts, while I work through the mud.


The mission of my repeater is very near and dear to my heart - it is basically my way of creating a space on the air that has the same values I do - openness, inclusion, and welcoming to every type of individual who is interested in amateur radio. With that said, having a repeater on the air, connecting to nets that align with the repeater’s mission, and being part of the Pride Radio Network, is very important to me. The trouble is, keeping a repeater on the air takes both labor and money. So far I’ve managed to keep the machine on the air using only my own labor and money (I’ve managed to keep it frugal so far, so it’s been mostly an effort of my own labor.)

The repeater currently being offline however, is bumping into the limits of what I’m capable of accomplishing with my labor, and I’m starting to worry that getting it back on the air may end up involving more financial resources than I can muster quickly.

Options for the Most Immediate Need

So Priority 1 right now is getting something back on the air. Right now I’ve got a short list of choices:

  1. Repair the current machine myself
    • This is what I’m currently working on. I’ve only got a few dollars worth of parts in it. I’m waiting for one more to arrive, and crossing my fingers that it will be the magic bullet that gets me back on the air.
  2. Replace the current machine with a new one made of essentially 2 commercial radios and the duplexer from the current machine.
    • I have 2 radios that can be used, but this option will require a little more money for a new controller, bits to make some new harnesses, and misc. hardware- no biggie, it would just have to wait a few weeks because I do keep a pretty small/tight hobby budget so that we can sock away for education and stuff for our kids.
  3. Pay someone else to repair the current machine?
    • I have zero idea what this would cost, or who I would take it to (there is a commercial shop locally that used to service this model when it was in production, so they might still be willing). I suspect it would cost more than my plan B, but I imagine it couldn’t be too bad. It would also be a way to be more confident in getting the current machine back on the air, instead of having it become more e-waste, so I’m inclined to shop around a bit if I can’t get it working myself.
  4. Figure out how to scrounge up a little more money and buy a mostly direct replacement
    • This specific model can sometimes still be had for a fairly reasonable amount, and there are other comparable out of production repeaters from other companies that are similar in features and cost, if you can sort out the programming.
  5. Figure out how to scrounge up a larger amount of money and buy a ‘proper’ replacement -
    • i.e. something either still in production, or in production recently enough that parts, service, programming software, etc., are actually available without having to go through dubious methods to make it happen:-) This could be big $$$, but Yeasu does have that program on their repeaters that makes the price of a new repeater not much more than buying a used one.

The Wheels Have Started Turning

So, while I’m most likely to keep slogging away at some combination of the first 3 items above, (maybe, just maybe, jumping to the 4th) this is where my thoughts start to take a meandering path. If you’re still with me, thanks! If you bow out here, I won’t be offended, because I’m not 100% sure where this thought train is going.

Like many things, all of this would be easier if there were more $$$ available to throw at the problem.

I don’t like asking people for money, but I have considered setting up something to be able to take donations for the support of the repeater. I suspect doing so I’d maybe be able to look harder at option 3, or maybe even 4 eventually, but I’m not sure if I’m comfortable asking for donations, and I don’t know what kind of tax nightmare that might become.

The other things I’ve considered would be reaching out to one of the clubs that I’m a member of that is a proper non-profit, to see if they’d be willing to act as my ‘sponsor’ to apply for an ARDC grant, to enable me to skip right to the 4th option.

With the 2 money ideas, I then spiral into the next rathole of thoughts - if I could scrounge up some resources via a combination of donations/grants, it would be very satisfying to me to acquire and set up machines, and then ship them around to places where I can find people willing to put them up at their homes or club sites, to help add more machines with full time connections to things like the Pride Radio Network.

The thought above, surprise surprise, took me spiraling down yet another side-tunnel in this rat-nest of ideas… If money were not the hurdle, and I was helping to do this on a slightly larger scale, maybe the thing to do would be to stop operating my current repeater and any future repeaters under my own callsign, but instead maybe do it as a volunteer trustee for one of the clubs I participate in, so that the repeater network is ‘theirs’ instead of my own. Only catch there is getting into the volunteer thing can turn into a giant time commitment, which I’m not sure I could actually make (I had to drop some of my volunteer activities already, since I have a large family.)

So anyway, thats my crazy-train of thoughts for the moment. Real world, I’m most likely to focus on getting this machine fixed myself or by hiring it out, and then saving up over the long run for an eventual replacement, but it felt good to get all these thoughts out of the brain and into text.

If you have any input or suggestions I’d love to hear them - hit me up at my email (I’m good on QRZ) or via Mastodon.