In the late 1990s, we sought to bring a local VHF repeater to the northwestern part of Johnson County, Indiana for portable users in the immediate local area. The two VHF repeaters located in the county at the time were located a considerable distance for VHF portable coverage from White River Township, one of Johnson County's main population centers. One machine, the 146.835 repeater, was located in Franklin at the time, but had recently lost it's high profile 400-foot tower space on the Johnson County tower in Franklin to make way for the Franklin site of the Project Hoosier SAFE-T statewide Motorola SmartZone Omnilink public safety radio system. The other repeater, the epic 145.11, also known locally as the "Five-Eleven", was one of several high-power wide-area RF-linked voted remote receiver systems that covered vast swaths of Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky from the mid '80s through the late '90s. Some notable systems of this era were the "Mighty Five Two Five" on 145.250 MHz, the wide-area FARA System on 145.190 MHz, Evansville's EARS System, and the 145.11 MHz Kettering Medical Center Amateur Radio Association wide-area system in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio. When the Indianapolis 145.11 was in it's prime, the nearest receiver sites to the northwestern part of Johnson County were Mount Nebo in Morgan County and the WENS (now WLHK) tower in southeastern Marion County. There were also receive sites in Franklin and Flat Rock. The transmitter, a tube-type GE Progress, was located in New Whiteland, blasting in excess of 200 watts through a Hustler G7-144 from the top of the New Whiteland water tower. The system could frequently be heard as far south as Elizabethtown, KY, and as far north as Crown Point, IN. Time, however, took it's toll on the "Five-Eleven". The Mount Nebo site was offlined due to a storm in late 1999 and never returned to it's previous form, and eventually the 500-foot tower slot on the WENS tower was lost. Add to this the fact that many of the subdivisions in the densely-populated White River Township area have covenants which restrict the installation of outside antennas, and you'll see we had a considerable number of hams who had nothing but two-meter portables and no close repeater to use them on.
The Northwest Johnson County Repeater Association was informally organized in 2000 by KB9RRN and KB9TRQ. Other members and interested parties included KB9STI and KB9WXR. A modified Motorola MICOR repeater station that used to belong to WS9V was acquired and set up on 146.585 MHz transmit and 147.585 MHz receive. Due to our lack of knowledge and experience, the system was plagued with technical problems, and complaints of interference led to a change in frequency, up the band to 147.165/147.765 MHz, which was an unused repeater pair at the time. The system never worked properly, and in 2002 it was shut down, never to return to VHF again.
Fast-forward about eight years. I began to become very interested in the use of VoIP technology in radio communications, and decided to put up a VoIP link to the K9NZF Repeater using EchoLink. This way, the repeater could be used mobile in my local area without me having to have a hundred foot tower and a huge beam to make the backhaul from my house to the repeater site seventy miles to the northeast. Due to congestion on the VHF spectrum, I decided to put the system on UHF where there are a lot less users and a lot less band congestion.
The station has been on the air on it's present UHF frequency of 443.325 MHz since October 10, 2010. Originally the station operated exclusively on 443.325 MHz narrowband simplex, however the configuration was later changed to 443.325 MHz transmit and 448.325 MHz receive with standard 5 kHz deviation to facilitate easy transition to repeater operation. The station formerly used DPL code 325 for access, however it now uses PL 156.7 Hz. The station has never been nor will it ever be carrier-squelch operated. It presently covers a local area in central Indiana consisting of northwestern Johnson County, southwestern Marion County, northeastern Morgan County, and southeastern Hendricks County. The station has surprisingly good coverage on the west side of Indianapolis considering it's low profile nature.
A new chapter in our history began when the new repeater went on the air at 1600 hours on April 10, 2016 after several years of meticulous construction, testing, and refinement by Jordan Carter, K9NZF. We also secured exceptional coordination for the site thanks to the new frequency coordinator at the Indiana Repeater Council. The system will continue to operate much as it always has, however with local repeat now a reality, the system is available to all amateurs in the northwest Johnson County area, as was our original vision almost two decades ago.
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