Last night, Mt. Hood Community College's Board of Education voted to continue its KMHD operations agreement with Oregon Public Broadcasting, rescinding a previous vote to end its partnership with OPB and return the jazz station to the college as early as this summer.

The decision ends months of uncertainty. MHCC owns the license for KMHD, Portland's only jazz station, but KMHD has been operated by OPB for the past 10 years.

In January, the board announced that it would not renew the agreement, which was scheduled to automatically extend for another five years this August. The board requested a two-year contract while it looked into returning the station back to the college and place its day-to-day operations back under the school's control. OPB denied MHCC's request for a two-year contract.

The announcement prompted concern from the radio station and its fans. At a special board meeting last week, a committee of college faculty and staff presented on the possibility of returning the station to the college by August. The committee found that moving the station back to the college would require a startup budgetary shortfall of over $169,000, and expressed concerns over the PR damage the school could incur from altering the station.

At last night's meeting, after accepting public comment, MHCC's board motioned to rescind its previous vote, affectively reactivating the automatic extension clause in its contract with OPB. The only dissenting vote came from board member and jazz musician Kenney Polson.

In a second motion, the board authorized the college’s president, Dr. Lisa Skari, to “negotiate with OPB around some concerns” in the current agreement—namely, the lack of MHCC students accepted for KMHD internships and issues with sponsorship for the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival.

“We’re looking forward to working with [OPB],” board chair Diane McKeel tells WW. “I think for us, it’s a matter of, we have some big budget issues to look at at the college and we have uncertain state funding around community colleges right now.”
Asked if the board is still looking to eventually return KMHD to MHCC, or if its stance would depend on the next five years, McKeel replied, “I would say that would depend.”  
Steve Bass, OPB’s CEO, says that he does not expect to overhaul the existing contract. “I don’t think it really said to renegotiate the contract,” says Bass. “If they have a different reading of it, I guess I’ll find out.”
Bass says that the public support of KMHD was a silver lining of the controversy: “We have a renewed sense of how valuable this is in the region, and that’s a neat thing.”