Kamiak Butte Amateur Repeater Association, Spokane WA


© 2017, Kamiak Butte Amateur Repeater Association


History of KBARA
The 2M FM amateur repeater on Kamiak Butte (North of Pullman, WA) began in the early 1970s on 146.13/73 MHz. The original builder and control operator was Gary Baker-K7VED (now K7EMF) of Pullman. Gary's employer, Radio Television Services of Washington State University (KWSU Radio-TV) allowed him to place the repeater inside the KWSU-TV building and his home brew antennas (split antennas-no duplexer) on the KWSU TV tower. At that time, a repeater license was required by the FCC. Gary did the engineering work necessary and acquired the license (WR7AIP).
The original radio equipment was a GE Pre-Progress Line (all tube type). The entire repeater was replaced by a GE Master Exec (all solid state) and Gary designed and fabricated the controller, variable squelch tail and link electronics using a Clegg 220 transceiver to link to the Kennewick repeater 146.76/16.

Gary worked with Steve Sterling WA7DUH who had previously graduated from WSU also. Earnie, WA7EAQ worked with Steve to add and implement the link electronics. Gary- K7VED, Steve-WA7DUH and Earnie-WA7EAQ were successful in linking the two repeaters and allowed all to access using a DTMF code for linking. During the same period, Gary Barta, WA7BIP provided a solid state ID'er which he fabricated using a diode matrix to develop the CW ID as microprocessors were not in common use then. Gary-WA7BIP subsequently graduated from WSU with a Masters degree and went to work for Tektronix and then for a subsidiary of Tektronix heading up development of the GaAsFet technology. Part way into that project he was contacted by an entrepreneur and became the inventor of Magellan GPS! His original inventions are in the Smithsonian presently.
Eric Shahan-WA7LNH provided a Wacom 6 cavity duplexer and they converted to a single antenna on the TV tower. They did not realize the band reject duplexer provided very little isolation between the receiver and transmitter so Gary-K7VED fabricated a hybrid ring duplexer and used four of the Wacom cavities which was much more effective.

Later, due to IMD issues Gary encountered early on, Phil Ricker-WB7ARB helped Gary with maintenance of the repeater. Phil later graduated from WSU in Electrical Engineering and headed up a new Intel facility in New Mexico. Gary learned many years later that using a high sensitivity receiver on the same site as a high power broadcast transmitter is not a good idea as the high power transmitter as with all transmitters emit baseband noise. The noise level from high power transmitters is a much higher level than low power transmitters. Also, high power circulators are not feasible so little IMD protection can be offered to such transmitters.

Paul Albee-W7ZEA also a student at WSU acquiring his PhD in Electrical Engineering provided Gary Baker with an abundance of technical knowledge (along with all the others mentioned) making this repeater a great success. Just prior to Gary moving to Spokane in Jan of 1981, Dan K7MM helped Gary by formulating an organization to keep the repeater in operation.

Very influential in KBARA development was Art Gemmrig-WB7AUK. Art was a Deputy Sheriff in Whitman County, based out of Colfax, the county seat. He was dedicated to public service and to emergency preparedness. Art secured emergency-service status for the Kamiak Butte repeater, which got the repeater a permanent spot in the new radio building and on the radio tower on Kamiak Butte. Art became the repeater's main control operator and the callsign changed to WB7AUK/R. Art was instrumental in establishing the EOC (emergency operations center) in the basement of the Whitman County jail which included federal funding for a new GE Master II repeater and duplexer system as well as money to prepare a new space in the building to house the EOC. On the day the new repeater arrived, Dan took the brand new GE Master II home to get it ready for installation, Art recalls he was all smiles. Art and Jo Ann-KA7SUZ, established the first link to Spokane in the early 1980s. They subsequently moved to Spokane and ran a very successful amateur radio retail store for many years. As the 80s and 90s progressed, Art established repeaters in Spokane and at Lookout Pass, ID. During this time, many local hams helped Art build and maintain the repeaters and RF links, some were Jack Babbit-WA7ZAY(sk), and Karl Shoemaker-AK2O. The Walla Walla area came on board with a repeater in the Blue Mountains. Art made more links, eventually connecting with the Evergreen Intertie to link the KBARA system of repeaters across to the west side of Washington. By that time, the majority of the system was built, owned and operated by Art-WB7AUK and KBARA provided support for the system. During this period when Art and others built the linked repeater system, many government roadblocks and nay-sayers objections were overcome by the KBARA members to ensure the system was built and maintained for all to use.

When Art decided retire, the repeaters were purchased by private owners and the club changed its purpose to be a support system and advocate for the individual owners.
John-W7OE recalls the following about the transition:

"I had bought a lot of gear from Art's Ham Radio shop (Amateur Radio Team of Spokane) and got to know him very well. He told me in 1996 that he will be selling all the KBARA Repeater equipment to the highest offer and they may remove the equipment from the sites. I offered to purchase the 147.38 Repeater and all the associated link equipment. I also told him that I would purchase the 147.36 and 147.02 Repeaters but not the 147.28 because of its greater distance from Spokane. I did not want to have my hands full so I recruited a partner for the 147.36 (KB7WTO), and the 147.02 (N7LVO). I also found a buyer for the 147.28 repeater (KB7??? sorry I forgot his call) and it was soon sold to Rich AA7P. The partners have changed over the years for the '36, '02, and '74 repeaters but I have always been owner of some components of the '74."

John-W7OE preferred to retain full ownership of the 147.38 repeater and it's links. John's plan was to share ownership with others so they can enjoy ownership and help bear the finacial burden.

Today, the KBARA system consists of several amateur radio repeaters that are linked together to cover an area from southeastern British Columbia to northeastern Oregon, and from western Montana to central Washington. The KBARA system can also be connected to the Evergreen Intertie, an interconnected group of repeaters located in the northwestern United States and western Canada.

Historical content from Gary Baker, Daniel Ransom, Bob Lemon, Art Gemmrig and John Dempster. Compiled and Edited by Anonymous


2017, Kamiak Butte Amateur Repeater Association