Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Bedford Township: Board questions TV contract

TEMPERANCE - Bedford Township Board's cable committee is questioning a 3-year-old decision by the previous board to hire Triple L Productions of Lambertville to televise township board meetings instead of using students from Bedford High School's broadcast journalism department to do so.

The decision, which dates back to 2002, meant the board discontinued an annual payment of $10,000 to the school. The money came to the township as part of an agreement with Buckeye CableSystem, and was to go to the schools in exchange for providing a studio the township could use, said Steve Lennex, a member of the committee. Buckeye is owned by Block Communications Inc., which also owns The Blade.

Each year, the township receives approximately $175,000 from the 4 percent "franchise fee" the township levies on each monthly cable bill. The tax is imposed by nearly all local units of government where cable television operates, and once collected by the local cable company, is turned over to the local government for use as it sees fit.

Tom Dawson, senior manager of government and community affairs for Buckeye CableSystem, has said that his company has continuously remitted the franchise fee payments to Bedford Township since Buckeye first began providing cable services in Bedford Township in 2001.

The township board apparently interpreted the payment as being for camera operation services students used to provide at township meetings, Mr. Lennex said. After the job went to the private firm, the payments stopped.

"They decided we're not going to pay the schools their $10,000 anymore. That was wrong," Mr. Lennex said. "The fact is there was never any performance standard other than to make sure there was a studio."

Fast-forward three years. The cable committee has recently unearthed the issue, said Larry O'Dell, a recently elected township trustee and now a liaison between the committee and the board.

"There seems to be some discrepancy between what the cable committee feels happened a number of years ago and what some of the township board members feel happened," Mr. O'Dell said. "They've asked me to develop a packet with them and give it to the board for their study. They feel very strongly that the board acted unilaterally in dissolving a contract."

"Hopefully, we will try to resolve whatever conflict there is," Mr. O'Dell said. "Nobody wants to have anything that was not kosher or legal or not within the framework they were supposed to be operating in."

Mr. O'Dell and Mr. Lennex said they hope to end the disdiscrepancy between what the cable committee feels happened a number of years ago and what some of the township board members feel happened," Mr. O'Dell said. "They've asked me to develop a packet with them and give it to the board for their study. They feel very strongly that the board acted unilaterally in dissolving a contract."

"Hopefully, we will try to resolve whatever conflict there is," Mr. O'Dell said. "Nobody wants to have anything that was not kosher or legal or not within the framework they were supposed to be operating in."

Mr. O'Dell and Mr. Lennex said they hope to end the dispute in January after the committee has made a presentation to the board and the board has had a chance to study the facts.

Jon White, Bedford Public Schools superintendent, said he was surprised the issue has resurfaced. To my understanding, once the township withdrew their support, the situation was dead," he said. "We didn't have a choice. The previous township leadership said they weren't going to do it anymore and that was that."

Contact Vanessa Winans at:vwinans@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.

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