Sunday, July 25, 2021

Radio station silences 'The Voice'

News editor | September 3, 2020 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A longtime broadcaster has been silenced after hosting a radio show featuring a spokeswoman for a group trying to halt the relocation of an asphalt batch plant to a gravel pit in Sagle.

Bill Litsinger, host of "The Voice" on KSPT/KBFI, learned last month he would no longer be hosting his weekly Blue Sky Broadcasting program after a realty firm reportedly threatened to pull all of its advertising after an Aug. 11 interview of Johnna Plante, the spokeswoman for Citizens Against Frank Linscott and Interstate Concrete & Asphalt, which obtained permit approval to relocate its plant from Sandpoint to Sagle.

Plante outlined the group's efforts halt the relocation plan and its arguments that the surface mine on the west side of U.S. Highway 95 is being operated illegally and that commissioners should not have approved the relocation project.

Litsinger repeatedly questioned whether the county commission and plant supporters were in cahoots, although Plante sidestepped those questions.

The broadcast reportedly drew the ire of Bonner County Commission Chairman Dan McDonald and Lana Kay Realty, which employs Frank Linscott's sons.

McDonald sought air time on Litsinger's program to rebut Plante's remarks, which he agreed to. Litsinger said he was later told he would not be allowed back on the air.

"He is fearful that he would lose advertising with Lana Kay," Litsigner said of the stations' owner, Dylan Benefield.

Litsinger suspects he was the target of a whisper campaign by supporters of the asphalt plant relocation plan.

The asphalt relocation plan is perhaps the most controversial land use issue in modern Bonner County history. Opponents have doggedly fought temporary asphalt plant operations at the gravel pit north of Gun Club Road for years, contending such operations harm property values and the rural ambiance of the neighborhood.

Opponents further contend that an asphalt plant threatens air quality, in addition to the Sagle aquifer. Supporters of the project counter that the plant has operated in Sandpoint for years without running afoul of state water and air quality regulations.

The Voice, which takes up local and state issues, has been on the air since 2004. Litsinger said he has discussed thornier topics on his program, including the Festival at Sandpoint's prohibition of firearms during the annual waterfront concert series. Litsinger said the Festival is another of Blue Sky's major advertisers.

But the show on the asphalt plant is the first time he has encountered blowback from one of his shows, according to Litsinger.

"I've been a lot tougher on a lot of people," he said.

Dylan Benefield of Blue Sky broadcasting did not respond to a request for comment. Lana Kay Hanson declined to comment on the advice of legal counsel.