Wednesday, December 11, 2013
WATERVILLE — The local access television station is asking the city to pay an extra $300 a month to tape, edit and broadcast City Council meetings.
The city pays $250 a month for coverage of two meetings within that time.
Laura Guite, executive director and station manager for Central Maine Community Access Television, which broadcasts from Fairfield on Time Warner Cable Channel 7, said the station has not increased Waterville’s fees since it started taping and broadcasting council meetings in 1997.
“It’s getting to a point where it’s costing the station more than what’s coming in,” Guite said Wednesday. “It’s far exceeding what we ask.”
When the station started in 1996, it hoped to have area municipalities become members and help shoulder the financial burden to run the station; but so far, Fairfield is the only one that participates, Guite said.
In addition to the $3,000 the city pays the station annually for council meeting coverage, Winslow pays $1,500 a year for its 12 meetings, Guite said.
Still, viewers get to watch local sports, library programs and other events in the several communities the channel covers, including Waterville, Fairfield, Winslow, Norridgewock, Oakland, Skowhegan, Vassalboro and China.
“We are huge in area but very poor on the monetary side,” Guite said. Guite is the only paid staff member at CATV, which also has three volunteers.
She said the station seeks sponsorships, raises money and uses volunteers to help keep the station afloat.
City Manager Michael Roy told councilors Tuesday night the city budgets a certain amount of money each year for the service. He recommended the city not continue using the service unless the council wants to take money from another account to pay for it.
However, Councilor Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, said he talks to a lot of people who watch the council meetings on television and he thinks the city shouldn’t discontinue it.
“I think that the citizens would be upset about it,” he said.
Roy said the council could form a group to work with him and CATV to see if the proposed fee could be changed or to discuss other options.
Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, suggested that someone else possibly record council meetings and put them online.
Roy said Fairfield has been subsidizing the cable-access station, to the tune of $16,000 a year.
“That’s subsidizing Waterville and Winslow, so they’re looking for communities to get more involved. ... They’re asking us to join their board,” Roy said.
He said CATV officials have been upfront with city officials and let them know from the beginning that the monthly fee would increase at some point.
Meanwhile, Roy, Stubbert and Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, agreed to meet with CATV officials to try to work something out.
In other matters Tuesday, councilors voted to approve a food license for a new Dunkin’ Donuts in the former Arby’s restaurant at 339 Main St. A call to CRT LXXII LLC, a Massachusetts company that applied for the license, was not returned Wednesday.
Food and liquor licenses also were approved for the Waterville Opera House.
Amy Calder — 861-9247