RUMFORD — In a reversal of his previous stances, Selectman Greg Buccina voted Thursday night to annually give more of the town’s cable franchise fees to WVAC local access Channel 7.

At the board meeting, Buccina motioned to place on the November ballot a proposal to allocate two-thirds of the fees to WVAC television station, and to allow selectmen to use the remaining money at their discretion.

He prefaced it by asking Town Manager Carlo Puiia to check into the legalities of placing it on the ballot.

“The idea is to supplement that station” annually, Buccina said. “Obviously, they wouldn’t have to come to us and ask for money, and we wouldn’t have to worry about that particular budget item.”

“It’s a battle every spring for us,” Selectmen Chairman Brad Adley said.

Currently, state law gives selectmen the authority to decide how much to disperse of cable franchise fee revenues. Rumford also has an ordinance stating this, he said.

Buccina’s motion was approved 5-0.

On March 18, Buccina verbally sparred with former Rumford Town Manager Len Greaney over how much should be allocated by the board to the TV station after Greaney gave a presentation seeking two-thirds of the fees.

Greaney is a WVAC director who helped the station develop an operating budget and to seek grant funding to complement whatever amounts it annually receives from Rumford and other area towns.

Greaney argued that Rumford should give most of the money to the station, because the fees come from cable TV subscribers and not taxpayers.

Buccina argued he wouldn’t then support giving two thirds to WVAC when other River Valley area towns weren’t paying as much. He wanted the money spent on other town projects.

Selectmen then twice failed to approve giving 66 percent and 50 percent of the $37,587 received from Time Warner Cable by 2-2 votes, but did OK 55 percent, or $20,652.

At the board’s Aug. 5 meeting, Buccina said he’d like to give a third of these fees annually (about $12,500) toward a Fourth of July celebration, which the town hasn’t had in recent years.

Buccina said Thursday night that since then, he’d learned that a lot of Rumford residents — especially the elderly — rely on and benefit from the local access channel for community news and its television programs.

“I have gotten some education on where the cable franchise fees come from, which they do come from the taxpayers that subscribe to cable, and some of that money is transplanted back to us,” Buccina said.

“I’ve been watching it a lot more lately to see what kind of programming it is, because of my decision to not stipend it for higher amounts, but I’ve gotten more commitments from them to cover our selectmen meetings so our citizens have the advantage of seeing that.”

He said he didn’t know how much of the cable subscription bill goes toward cable franchise fees.

“So they won me over a bit,” Buccina said.

After the board approved Buccina’s motion, Greaney publicly thanked him.

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