Board gives WVAC TV 7 $20,652 after two failed voting tallies

RUMFORD — Former Rumford Town Manager Len Greaney isn't happy that a majority vote by selectmen at last Thursday's board meeting didn't give local television access WVAC Channel 7 most of the cable franchise fees Rumford receives annually.

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Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

After getting into a heated discussion with Rumford Selectman Greg Buccina at the March 18 selectmen's board meeting, WVAC TV 7 Director Len Greaney pleads with selectmen to get a requested 66 percent of the town's cable franchise fees revenue of $37,587 for the local access station, which tapes and shows municipal meetings. A majority opted for 55 percent.

Selectmen had two tie votes, which failed, that would have given the station 66 percent and 50 percent, respectively. They finally voted 3-1 to give 55 percent of the fees, or $20,652, because it matched last year's amount.

Greaney, a WVAC TV director helping the station to develop an operating budget and seek grants, thanked the majority, and then returned to his seat and appeared to say something to resident Kevin Saisi, who also spoke on behalf of the station.

That prompted lone dissenter Selectman Greg Buccina to twice ask Greaney what he said, but Greaney told him he didn't say anything.

It was Buccina who braced Greaney — in sometimes heated discussions — about cable franchise fees, which Rumford selectmen have the right to disperse.

As Town Manager Carlo Puiia introduced the topic — tabled from a previous board meeting — Greaney handed out his modified copy of WVAC TV's business plan and made a case for 66 percent of the fees.

“This comes out to $25,000, which we hope to get for the station,” Greaney said, for changes and creating jobs.

The station provides service to the towns of Andover, Dixfield, Hanover, Mexico, Peru, Roxbury and Rumford, but usually only Rumford, Dixfield and Mexico provide funding.

Buccina then asked Puiia why WVAC TV didn't ask for money via the initiated articles requests like other social services must do.

Puiia said the town passed an ordinance to return a certain percentage of cable franchise fees to the station.

“The fees come from not taxpayers but cable subscribers,” Puiia said. “A portion of their fees get distributed back to the town, which has the right to do what they want with the money.”

Greaney argued that Rumford should treat cable franchise fees like the town treats snowmobile registration money it receives from the state. All of that money gets reimbursed to the Rumford Polar Bears Snowmobile Club, he said.

“I like the analogy with the snowmobile club, but I never connected the dots. It makes sense,” Selectmen Chairman Brad Adley said.

Selectman Jeffrey Sterling said his son greatly benefited from working at WVAC TV during high school and is now pursuing it as a career through college classes.

“I think it's important to fund Channel 7 for what its vision is tomorrow,” Sterling said, before motioning to give WVAC TV 66 percent or $25,050 of the cable franchise fees.

“This service is a real vital tool in this town,” by taping and showing municipal meetings, Adley said, seconding the motion. “You guys are doing a real admirable job.”

Buccina then said he wouldn't support 66 percent when other towns served by the station don't pay as much as Rumford does.

Buccina wanted the money spent on other town projects, to which Greaney then strenuously objected.

“I don't appreciate being pressured,” Buccina heatedly replied.

Rumford Polar Bears Snowmobile Club President Ronald Russell then joined Buccina, vehemently disagreeing with Greaney. Russell said Greaney's snowmobile analogy isn't correct, because although they get money from 400 snowmobile registrations in Rumford, they only have 60 members and must maintain the town's many miles of trails with it.

Russell then moved the question, silencing Greaney.

Eventually, Adley, Sterling and Belanger voted for Sterling's motion for 55 percent after Sterling's motion for 66 percent and Belanger's motion for 50 percent both failed.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Tony Capola's picture

Tax or Fee

I really doesn't matter what you call it the money stills comes out of the same pair of pants... yours and mine. The majority of the selectmen seem not to care about the source of this money; it's still money and they seem hell-bent to spend it without regard for the town's fiscal situation.

I would remind everyone that this is an election year for the town and anyone that doesn't vote doesn't care and loses their right to complain.

 's picture

ok its a FEE then why dont

ok its a FEE then why dont charge others fees, CMP, CN BROWN etc..... ??

Tony Capola's picture

Waste of time

Writing is this section is likely a major waste of time. Apparently a couple of Selectman can't read. Nor can they reason.

This in NOT their money to spend any way they so decide. Most, if not all of it should go to WVAC. The balance should then go into the general fund for spending as need-be for the good of the taxpayers that paid the fees in the first place.

There is little difference between a FEE and a TAX. The one common element is they both come from the same source... you and I, the taxpayers.

Mr. Buccina is an embarrassment. His empty rhetoric and baseless arguments about this issue only serve to prove the case for not allowing him and his associates to have their little 'slush fund.' He can get a confrontational as he chooses but it doesn't change the facts.

We should all be very diligent in watching how the money stolen from WVAC and the taxpayers is spent.

 's picture

Everything is not a nail

"The balance should then go into the general fund for spending as need-be for the good of the taxpayers that paid the fees in the first place."

 

The taxpayers did not pay in anything to this fund. The cable subscribers paid in money, which should be used to their benefit, not the benefit of those without cable tv. I have proposed an ordinance to eliminate the slush fund.

 's picture

sorry

sorry it is added past on to the customer fo service so it is a tax , the money must go into the general fund , along the other fees , as income for the town to help reduce tax bill .

 's picture

Fee

Just because it meets your definition, does not make it so. When you read your cable bill, presuming that you are a cable subscriber, it is listed as a franchise fee. The federal goverment designates it as a fee. So, your definitio is trumped by authorities much more powerful than you and I.

 's picture

According to Federal

According to Federal Regulations, franchise fees are, just that, fees. Their intent was to offset the cost to the municipality in administering the agreement with the cable tv companies, and for public access tv stations. The money is paid by the subscribers, and not by those who do not subscribe. Municipalities have misused these funds due to a lack of understanding as to their intent. In Rumford, I have been informing the town of the true intent of those fees ever since the beginning of the access channel. I have addressed the issue of their use over the past few decades. The trouble is, it has become a convenient slush fund from which to feed pet projects. The ordinance that was written provides the board with governance over the use of the fees. However, such use should not exceed the acceptable uses established by the federal government. I am submitting an ordinance change that would assure the funds are used for cable tv related expenses. I hope that it will be accepted by the board. If not, I will be seeking the signatures to petition it onto the ballot. I am also proposing other ordinance changes to regulate the constant outflow of money to private interests.

 's picture

correction

cable fees  ARE taxes and those monies should go into the general fund and then voted on by the town were they should go not left to the town selectmen , property taxes went up and Mr. Greaney is not happy with the amount his group got? how ungrateful!  

 's picture

Ordinance

The PEOPLE voted in an ordinance authorizing the selectmen to administer the fee. Their decision outweighs the decision of one person. If you have no knowledge on a topic, it is foolhardy to argue. Your ignorance is showing.

 's picture

During this current period of

During this current period of extreme budget woes being cast upon our citizens, our towns and our state, communications amongst all is of critical importance. The hard working people of WVAC , well aware of growing public interest, are trying to meet this need.

In their attempts to provide what has become a public mandate for transparency, they also are strapped by budget constraints.

The snowmobile clubs feel they have rights to all registration fees collected by the town to maintain trails. What you may not know is that the town accepts a risk when turning this money over. Environmental damage which trail work might incur can become a town's problem.

The towns have no such risks with cable franchise monies. 

The public good provided by broadcasting the decisions made inside our town halls has never been any more important than it is now. Citizen input in assisting town officials as they try to address the many issues before them requires information.WVAC is our ticket to this information.

Strenghten the access to knowledge to a community and it will strengthen the community itself.                                                                

 

 's picture

Why Buccina wanted the money spent on other town projects ?

If Greg Buccina can't stand the heat he should get out of the kichen

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