BELMONT — Selectmen last night unanimously rejected a request to pay Lakes Region Public Access television $15,067 until the new franchise agreement is signed with MetroCast — the area's cable television provider.
The decision came after the town got a bill from LRPA recently that was about $5,000 more than what it had been told it would pay, although basically level with what has been paid in recent years.
The money is a dues-like fee that the town pays LRPA to be a member of the organization, be represented on the board of directors and have the right to have the town's public meetings broadcast on Metrocast's public access channels.
According to the bill from LRPA to the town, the LRPA board based the estimated bill for Belmont, around $10,000, on the estimated number of cable subscribers in the town, based on previous years.
The letter from LRPA said that when MetroCast counted the subscribers in Belmont it used only the cable subscribers, not inlcuding patrons who buy only other MetroCast services, such as Internet access and phone service. The new subscriber numbers were considerably lower for Belmont than those the LRPA board used in calculating the projected bill, which was quoted as a per-subscriber price.
One the LRPA board realized the MetroCast numbers were lower it voted to increase the per-subscriber price to appoint where it would generate the budgeted amount of income.
"In retrospect, the decision to set the per subscriber level should have been done after receiving the current count from Metrocast," wrote LRPA Director Denise Beauchaine.
Last night the Belmont board noted that MetroCast and the subscriber communities are negotiating a new 10-year contract and it has been suggested that a direct channel for each community for public access will be part of that new contract that will go into effect in January of 2014.
In reality, should the direct feed become part of the new contract, it means Belmont residents would be able to watch videos of their own boards that choose to be recorded rather than having the meetings run on a schedule driven by LRPA.
The board noted that selectman's meetings haven't been aired since July of 2012 and, to date, they haven't gotten any complaints. Board members said they got a few complaints that the same old meeting was running over and over again but they have since asked LRPA to remove it.
The reason the meetings are not video taped is because there is no one in the town's budget to tape them. Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said last night she thought she had a volunteer who would do the taping but the woman called her and told her she would be unable to do it.