Boothbay actively seeking new cable franchise agreement

Town officials claim current deal no longer valid
Sat, 06/15/2019 - 8:30am

For years, Boothbay officials believed an in perpetuity clause kept them from seeking a better cable franchise agreement. In 1992, Boothbay entered into a franchise agreement with Cablevision, as the town’s exclusive cable television provider. In past years, municipal officials sought to renegotiate for a provision expanding service to more residents by lessening density per mile restrictions. But the various cable providers who followed Cablevision had no incentive to renegotiate due to the in perpetuity clause.

But a recent franchise agreement review and new state law has breathed life into hopes of negotiating a more favorable agreement. On June 12, Chairman Steve Lewis reported former board member Chuck Cunningham re-read the agreement and interpreted it as expiring in 2012. Selectmen also received more welcomed news when Boothbay Region Television station manager Cody Mitchell reported the Legislature approved a measure benefiting public education and government access channels’ treatment by cable providers. 

The new law requires educational and local access cable channels be treated like broadcast stations in their channel positions. Another change regards density per mile regulations for cable service. The law creates 15 as a maximum number of homes for determining density per household in cable agreements. 

“What this does is puts us in a great position to renegotiate a better deal. They have 90 days to put the public access channel back in the same general location as other local channels. So I think you will be hearing from them, shortly, ” Mitchell said. 

Selectmen discussed “maximizing” their newfound leverage in future franchise agreements by joining forces with other peninsula towns. Town officials want Boothbay Harbor and Southport to negotiate as a single entity. Selectmen envision creating a peninsula-wide committee of select board members, educators, librarians and businessmen to formulate what the region needs in a new cable television and broadband internet agreement. The committee’s first act would be hiring a consultant experienced in franchise agreement negotiations. 

“I think we should create an RFP (request for proposal) and ask them (Boothbay Harbor and Southport) to join,” Selectman Kristina Ford said. 

In other action, Town Manager Dan Bryer told selectmen his future role with the Housing Committee would be reduced. The committee was formed by the Joint Economic Development Committee to secure “moderately” priced homes in the region. In March, an anonymous private investor pledged to provide financing to buy property, fund construction and get mortgages. 

Earlier this  month, the committee secured two parcels of land, totaling 24 acres on Middle Road in Boothbay Harbor, for constructing as many as 20 three-bedroom homes for a cost between $180,000 and $220,000. “My board asked me to get this project up and running. I was tasked with bringing people together, and I’ve done that. Now it’s time for me to step away,” he said.

The Housing Committee will work toward securing financing for six potential new homeowners. Bryer reported the committee would research any potential credit problems of any applicants and work with Boothbay Region Community Resources Council in holding a first-time homeowner class. 

Selectmen unanimously approved three license renewal requests. Steve and Susan Plausteiner received an innkeeper’s renewal license for their Five Gables Inn in East Boothbay. Philip and Annette Main received an auto graveyard and junkyard permit renewal for their Dover Used Car Parts business on Dover Cross Road. The 1820 House Restaurant received a Class I, II, III and IV liquor license renewal for their Ocean Point Road establishment.

Selectmen meet next at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 25 in the municipal building’s conference room. Selectmen will discuss in-town broadband hotspot locations for 30 minutes with a Lincolnville Communications, Inc. representative before addressing other agenda items at 7 p.m.