Cable Revisions Are Put On Hold
Published 3:47 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2012
BUCKINGHAM – The January meeting of the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors included a public hearing on proposed revisions and updates to the county's cable television franchise ordinance.
However, concurring with a recommendation by County Attorney E. M. Wright, supervisors postponed action on the revisions until their February meeting.
Prior to the hearing, Wright explained that one cable company, Comcast, operates in the county under a franchise agreement made many years ago.
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According to the attorney, in the process of negotiating the renewal of that franchise agreement, a review of the county's cable television franchise ordinance indicated the need to revise and update the ordinance, which was adopted in 1988. He explained that the ordinance provides the underpinning of the franchise agreement.
Noting that talks regarding the franchise agreement are continuing with Comcast, Wright explained that the agreement could have some impact on how the ordinance is finalized. However, he added that the revised ordinance would need to be adopted prior to the board's approval of the franchise agreement.
Subsequently, Wright asked the board to move forward with the public hearing on the proposed revisions to the ordinance but defer action until the next meting.
During the hearing, Pete Kapuscinski questioned the liability coverage.
Wright explained that the agreement the county is negotiating calls for a million dollars, which he said compares with other jurisdictions.
Gordon Winn cautioned the administration not to move too quickly on a cable franchise. “There are lots of people in Buckingham County that do not have internet access,” he stated.
Noting that cable television companies and telephone companies can provide that access, he asked that the board look into those factors and put out feelers for those willing to provide broadband coverage as well as telephone and cable television.
After Chairman Monroe Snoddy closed the hearing, Supervisor Bill Talbert led with a successful motion to accept the recommendation of the county attorney to postpone action on the ordinance until the next meeting.
During the public participation segment of the January 9 meeting, several citizens went to the podium to express their concerns on various issues.
James Strong, a long-time volunteer with the Buckingham County Volunteer Rescue Squad, was first to comment. He expressed his concern about what he described as on-going problems with the county's emergency communications system.
Strong, stressing the need to address the problems, said that he heard the county had received a grant for a new system.
Stating that they had been promised something would be done, Strong asked, “When?”
County Administrator Rebecca Carter explained that the county has been working on a plan to upgrade the communication system. However, she said there is no grant and at this point, they have come up with a cost of approximately $500,000, which she explained would more than likely have to come from local tax dollars.
According to Carter, engineering work has been completed on the upgrade and they are ready to bring the information to the finance committee, which in turn would forward its recommendation to the board of supervisors.
“Is it possible to secure a grant for this?” questioned Supervisor Cassandra Stish. Carter responded that they had not been successful thus far.
Pete Kapuscinski spoke on the need to be more proactive in the use of tax dollars to promote economic development, which he explained would ultimately bring in more revenue.
Kapuscinski proposed having someone on the board address economic development at each meeting.
He said his proposal included adding an agenda item to cover what is being done to add jobs and find new businesses interested in locating in the county.
Noting that the information could be provided without exposing confidential information, Kapuscinski said the report should include information about the kind of companies/businesses that have approached the county or the county has approached as well as the types and numbers of potential jobs.
Moreover, he said the report should include how many businesses are under review. He explained, “That is, how many are new opportunities and their requirements to locate here; how many opportunities have failed and why; and how many jobs have been added or lost to our community.”
Kapuscinski stressed that county expenditures, such as salaries for teachers and police as well as general services involved in the operation of the county, will continue to increase.
“These costs will be paid for by our existing residents in their real estate, small business, and personal property taxes,” said Kapuscinski.
Emphasizing the importance of the issue, Kapuscinski stated, “I believe that you, the supervisors who are charged the custodial responsibility over our taxpayer assets, are obligated to report back to us, the taxpayers of Buckingham, what it is you are doing with that part of our taxes that should be used to grow Buckingham's economic base.”
He concluded, “For that reason, again, I am asking that one of you please make the motion to add economic development to the monthly board of supervisors' meeting and that you appoint a supervisor to manage and be accountable for reporting progress on this part of Buckingham County business each month.”
Gordon Winn switched the focus back to the communications system.
Referencing the radio system installed approximately seven years ago, Winn said of the two repeater sites, which are located near Alpha and on Willis Mountain, the one at Willis Mountain is very seldom used.
According to Winn, the telephone system should have been replaced when the new system was installed. He stated, “The telephone system is a major weakness in your system.”
Continuing, Winn stated that approximately three years ago the county's radio technician brought equipment to the county to provide a free test of the radios for all the fire and rescue members. Of the 15 that showed-up, 80 percent of the radios tested were bad, said Winn.
He stated, “If you take that as a representative sample, even if you look at it conservatively, say 50 percent, and spread that across all the radios in the county, you've got lots of problems out there.”
Referencing comments from Strong about noise on the radio, Winn explained that the narrow band directive addresses the problem of that noise on the radio system, pagers, and handhelds. However, he added that it would not resolve the noise on personal scanners.
Douglas Ange requested that supervisors be cautious when trying to regulate small businesses. “I hope Buckingham County understands that it's going to take small businesses to get us out of this economy that we are in.”
Quinn Robinson addressed what he described as questions and concerns about the library and proposed plans for a new library building.
“The library is very popular and I think everyone would want to support it,” he stated. “But I am just not quite clear how it is going to come about unless there is more clarity coming from the Buckingham County Library Board on what they are doing and how they are doing it.”
Robinson also expressed his concerns about the organizational structure and operation of the Buckingham Library Board and the Central Virginia Regional Library Board.
He requested, “I would like to ask the board to consider, I know you have been given some other tasks tonight, conducting a review of what's going on at the library and find out what needs to be done to locate this structure and how far away we are.”
Although Kevin Wright, VDOT residency administrator, was not present, Chairman Snoddy asked for road concerns from his fellow supervisors and the public.
District 6 resident Mona Banton questioned VDOT's placement of CURVE signs on River Ridge Road, Route 763, which she said is a dead-end road. “If you go down one way then come back, certainly you know that curve is there,” said Banton. “And if you go down Spreading Oak Church Road, the curves are way worse. There is no curve sign there.”
She told supervisors, “I think it was a big waste of money and I'd like to know why they wasted the money putting the curve signs on a dead-end road.”
Bobby Jones, District 1 resident, said several citizens have come to him in the last couple of weeks complaining about the sight distance at the intersection of Route 672. He explained that VDOT cut the area but did not cut far enough. Jones asked that the board advise VDOT of the concerns.
County Administrator Carter began her report to supervisors by advising that she provided them with information about Local Government Day at the General Assembly on February 9.
Carter told supervisors that she has received a draft of the 2010 audit.
According to the county administrator, she and Karl Carter, assistant county administrator and finance director, are in the process of reviewing the draft.
She said they should have the final report by the February meeting. Carter explained that at that time, supervisors would need to decide how they would like to meet with the auditors to go over the report in detail.
Carter concluded her report with an update on the new county administration building. She said they hope to move into the new building the first part of March. However, she said the move would depend on the inspection.
“We will not move in until it meets all the requirements,” stated Carter.