Even with recent publicity about Blair and Susan Feulner's $100,000-plus annual salaries as general managers at KPCW public radio station, the Summit County Commission has voted to approve roughly $45,000 in grant money for new programs to the Park City station.

The Feulners, who started the station 25 years ago and worked as unpaid volunteers for the first several years, have had compensation packages — salaries and bonuses — worth more than $100,000 each in the past couple of years. Some grumbling in the community had hinted that the Feulners needed to tighten their own belts before asking for more money from the County Commission, but the commission approved the grant this past week after noting that the money went toward programs, not salaries or overhead costs.

The commissioners took the recommendations of the RAP tax committee of Summit County, an eight-member group that divvied up $640,000 of grant money to 20 nonprofit organizations in the county.

KPCW's grant proposal will use about one-third of the $45,350 grant to expand its Spanish-language programming by hiring radio professionals to run "Cada Domingo," a Sunday show that volunteers have staffed.

The station also will expand its community calendar, where nonprofits list their events and fund-raising drives, and it plans to expand its afternoon interview show and add more local and cultural coverage to national news program "All Things Considered." Finally, the station wants to host a town meeting to recognize the leaders of non-profit organizations for their work in the community.

Summit Commissioner Sally Elliott said the grant money was well-deserved for the station, which has been "a community campfire that enables us to come together and communicate about issues."

Blair Feulner — who co-managed the station with his wife, Susan, until she retired this year — has been defending his salary since it came to light in media reports in the past few weeks. Feulner will take home $140,000 in base salary this year — $70,000 each from KPCW and its sister station in Salt Lake City, KCPW. He may qualify for an additional $10,000 to $18,000 in bonuses as well, said Tom Calder, president of the station's board of directors.

In fiscal year 2004, the station paid Blair Feulner $143,652 and Susan Feulner $123,861 before retirement account contributions. In 2003, the station paid them $112,899 each; in 2002 it was $102,558 each. Each year, they put between $12,000 and $16,000 into retirement accounts, lowering their take-home paychecks.

"It was pointed out to us that if something happens to Blair Feulner, we lose three positions," Calder said. Feulner pulls triple duty as the station's general manager, an engineer and on-air talent.

An attorney told the KPCW board of directors that "you're going to have to go out on the marketplace and replace him. It was a pretty scary thing for us," Calder said. "If I had to go back today and redo the compensation . . . I think I'd probably arrive at the same conclusion. I wouldn't pay him more, but I wouldn't pay him less either."

The Feulners also took home around $800,000 as a commission in 2004 for selling a Coalville radio station that Blair Feulner had bought for $18,800 in 1991. Feulner bought the station thinking that it would be a good investment, and the station folded it into his and Susan Feulner's employment contracts as a 51 percent ownership.

When Blair Feulner negotiated the $3.5 million sale to a Salt Lake broadcaster from a national company, he and Susan Feulner agreed to take a 25 percent combined cut of the sale instead of their 51 percent so the station could use the remainder of the money for an AM extension of KPCW.

"That was unbelievable," Calder said. "I don't work with anybody who can turn that kind of a return in eight or nine years."

Elliott said that the Feulners are paid what she thinks they deserve, especially after their first decade at the station, when they averaged less than $20,000 a year each.

"Those of us who were here many, many years ago can remember when the Feulners drove rattle-trap cars and couldn't afford to live in Park City," Elliott said. "The fact that they've done well and created a very viable business entity is to their credit, and they should be rewarded."


E-mail: kswinyard@desnews.com