BUCKFIELD — Selectmen directed Town Manager Joe Roach on Tuesday evening to continue negotiations with Charter Communications on the cable TV franchise agreement in an effort to get more service.

Roach shared responses to the Select Board’s requests for changes in the agreement from Shelley Winchenbach of Charter Communications. The board requested the company change the service area from 20 homes to five homes per mile.

“Twenty homes per mile is what they have to offer,” Roach told selectmen about Charter’s response.

“We have not gone lower than that anywhere in the county,” Winchenbach wrote in her email response to Roach. “The town is able to apply for a ConnectME grant for low density areas if they would like.”

Select Board Vice Chairwoman Martha Catevenis noted that number of houses hasn’t been lowered in Oxford County. She wanted to know what other counties and/or municipalities that have lower houses-per-mile ratios for service and why Oxford County has a threshold of 20 per mile.

Selectman Cheryl Coffman requested Roach also explore applying for the ConnectME grant.

The Select Board also requested that the town’s Public Educational Government channel be moved from its 1301 to the single digits, which was denied.

Roach noted since the channel’s location has been 1301 for some time, it will have to remain there, according to state statute.

Selectmen wanted to know why the Public Works Facility and Transfer Station were not included in the service area.

Winchenbach said these two locations would be able to get services with an additional cost to the town because they’re outside of the cable TV distribution threshold.

Roach suggested to selectmen that he go back to Charter Communications to address underserved service areas in Buckfield.

“The thing we heard most about from the public is, ‘Expand the service area,’” he said. “I can call the cable company and request a ride out to look at these areas that are underserved.”

Roach said he would request a ride out, gather information about the number of houses per mile, look into the ConnectME grant and report his findings to the board.

In other business, the Select Board:

  • Rejected the Fire and Rescue departments’ proposed $250 fee to registered owners of abandoned vehicles at accidents due to a recent rash of such incidents. After a discussion, selectmen agreed there are more negatives and complications than positives with the proposed fee.
  • Raised the hourly rate for on-call snowplow drivers from $14.65 to $17 an hour because the rate was significantly lower than other towns. They also increased hourly rates to comply with the state’s new minimum wage of $12 an hour for election clerks, the deputy library director, animal control officer, firefighters, junior firefighters and rescue personnel dispatched while on call and training.
  • Moved their Tuesday, Jan. 21, meeting to Tuesday, Jan. 28, because Catevenis will be out of town.

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