By Beth David, Editor
At its meeting on 7/16, the Fairhaven Selectboard signed the Comcast Franchise agreement, although not without some pushback from Selectboard member Charles K. Murphy, Sr.
Fairhaven Town Administrator Mark Rees told the board that there were a few changes to the new contract, including that it was non-exclusive, so other providers could, conceivably, operate in Fairhaven. Mr. Rees cautioned the board, though, that it was unlikely another provider would come to town, because wireless is the wave of the future. He said the system of underground cables utilized by Comcast is cost prohibitive.”
It is, however, allowed under the new contract.
Other changes include that the percentage paid to the town to support PEG (Public, Educational, and Government Access TV) is increased from 4% to 5%. Comcast will also pay the town $100,000 for PEG within 45 days, and $60,000 in 10 installments of $6,000 each year, for capital improvements, such as equipment and facilities.
Comcast will also return $70,000 that was supposed to be used for upgrades that the town will now take over, using funds appropriated at Town meeting. The town will use part of the $70K for those improvements.
Mr. Murphy voiced his hesitation to signing the contract, noting that the senior discount was only $2, and also noting that there was no provision for place like nursing homes or the housing authority to get favorable rates for residents.
Mr. Murphy said he thought it was a typo when he read the two dollars.
“Wow,” said Mr. Murphy. “I’m not happy about that.”
Selectboard member Bob Espindola, who is on the Cable Advisory Committee and worked on the contract, said the town had “no negotiating power,” on the senior discount. It does not belong in the contract, he said.
He said the nursing homes, large apartment buildings, and housing authority need to negotiate “bulk” packages, but the town cannot put those rates into the contract.
“They can negotiate a bulk contract, it’s their option,” he said.
Mr. Murphy pressed the issue, saying that New Bedford seems to have a better discount for seniors, and the nursing homes there have a good deal that Fairhaven should also get.
Mr. Espindola insisted that those things do not belong in the Franchise Agreement.
“Before signing, I need to know there’s [going to] be a meeting with the Housing Authority and seniors,” said Mr. Murphy.
Mr. Espindola noted that they were on a deadline to sign the contract, but said there would definitely be a meeting. Mr. Murphy was skeptical.
Mr. Espindola said that attorney William Solomon, who worked with the town to negotiate the contract, was away, but had said he would be available to call.
“Call him,” said Mr. Murphy.
But, they could not raise him on the phone and bumped the discussion to later in the meeting.
When they resumed the discussion, Mr. Espindola referred to a “side letter” that Mr. Solomon wrote, explaining about bulk rates and contracts.
Mr. Rees explained that the contract was the thing needing to be signed, not the $2 discount for seniors.
“I understand,” said Mr. Murphy, but insisted on getting a “guarantee” that the meeting with the senior groups and Comcast will happen.
“I will guarantee it,” said Mr. Espindola. “I will personally guarantee that we have that meeting.”
The meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, 7/31, at the Oxford Terrace community room, 275 Main Street.
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