City officials negotiate cable TV agreements

The Pierz City Council came a step closer to renewing the franchise agreement with US Cable of Coastal – Texas L.P. Monday night. Steve Johnson from the company’s Cold Spring office appeared before the council to negotiate a new tower lease agreement and an updated pole attachment agreement. The former involves the cable TV tower’s placement on city owned land on South Robert Street.

In the past, there was no charge for the site, which until last year housed a city well. But now that the well has been closed it has become a buildable lot. City officials determined the cable company should pay a reasonable rental fee for use and maintenance of the property. After much discussion, Johnson agreed on $100 per month to lease the tower site commencing January 1, 2001. Thereafter, until the lease is terminated, the rent will increase by 3 percent to cover inflationary costs.

As part of the agreement, the city wants the right to renegotiate the contract if the cable company puts the tower to other uses or subleases it to other entities for a profit. Johnson indicated that the current microwave system may eventually switch to fiber optics to provide more services. However, there are no plans to take down the tower.

“Cable TV reception is terrible,” said Councilman Daniel Sauer, referring to public access Channel 3. Johnson admitted the problem was with the company’s microwave transmitter and promised new equipment will be installed soon, hopefully in December. The school district and Mid-State Education Technology district also have complained for months about the poor reception. The public access equipment is housed at Pierz Healy High School. Until Channel 3 is fixed, the council is holding off on renewing the franchise agreement.

Regarding other recent problems experienced by cable TV customers, Johnson said that there is some experimentation going on with digital feeds from the Twin Cities. “There have been channel variables as they work on their Shoreview tower,” he explained. “When its up and running, quality will improve.”

To settle the proposed attachment agreement, the city asked that language concerning pole abandonment be deleted. Once an electric pole is abandoned, the city considers it unsafe and therefore shouldn’t be acquired by the company.

It will cost the Cable TV company $4.50 per pole per year to string its lines on the city’s electric poles for the next five years, up from $1 per pole in the past. A mutual count earlier this fall established 211 poles are being used to provide cable TV service to residents.

Among other stipulations, all attachments must be installed and maintained in accordance with the National Electric Safety Code and placed within the designated space. The lowest wire on the pole is for cable television.

Johnson was advised to have the amended agreements ready for signatures at the December 11 council meeting.

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