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Committee member disagrees with Norton Council decision

2/7/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

I would like to address the vote taken by the Norton City Council [Jan. 28]. In November of 2012, the citizens of Norton voted to change the city charter to require live broadcasts of all committee and council meetings.

I was asked by City Council to chair a telecommunications committee to arrive at some ideas for complying with the new charter amendment. I agreed to be the chairman. The committee met enough times to arrive at two different ways that the meetings could be broadcast live. The two methods had very different costs and avenues that could be followed. The last meeting we had, the committee members “in attendance” were split down the middle as to what course of action that we should, as a committee, recommend.

I was in favor of broadcasting live, via Time Warner Cable [TWC]. I also would like to have seen a live web feed in addition to the TWC broadcast.

One other member present agreed with me. However, the other two members present were in favor of only a web link. Their reasons were twofold — costs and also their belief that TWC would be outdated in a few years. I disagreed that TWC would be outdated shortly and also felt that we, as a city, could make very good use of the newly acquired “peg” channel. In order to do the TWC broadcasts, we would have to spend approximately $40,000 as a one-time expenditure. Granted, we would have to maintain the equipment throughout the coming years, since we would own the entire operation. The webcast live feed would only cost between $2,000 and $3,000* to set up. However, there would be a continuing monthly cost of somewhere between $250 and $500*. I did not like the uncertainty of the cost involved. I also do not believe that the people in Norton who voted for the amendment voted to broadcast only on the web! I think that if we could ask them what they voted for, it would be overwhelmingly for television. I was told by the two members on the committee who were in favor of the web set-up that 70 percent of the people in the country have computers. I think that is likely true; however, I do not believe that 70 percent of Norton citizens have a computer! Even if it is close to that number, I do not believe that the average person would rather watch events such as these on the web link as opposed to TV. At the present time, I understand that around 47 percent to 50 percent of Norton residents have TWC. That would cover close to half of all Norton citizens, and then if web link was also implemented, we would catch somewhere between 30 percent and 40 percent of the remainder. I feel this was the way to go. In their wisdom, Norton Council decided to only implement web link, based on what I understood to be a matter of cost mainly.

The city law director rendered his opinion at the Council meeting that “either” way would meet the intentions of the charter amendment. I am disappointed in the vote.

I really believe that the people of Norton were not served well by Council. I think Council voted the least expensive way for the citizens. I also think they were misinformed as to the desires of Norton’s citizens. Hopefully, feedback received in the future will convince them to add cable to the mix.

James (Jack) Gainer, Norton


* Editor’s note: In the Jan. 28, 2013, Norton City Council meeting report, which appeared in the Jan. 31, 2013, edition, Michelle Baker, who was a part of the committee that studied the issue, said the cost of live web streaming included a $1,200 start-up fee and monthly bills from $200 to $500, depending on how many hours were broadcast.

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