Officials working toward a cable TV franchise agreement

By Stuart Hedstrom 
Staff Writer

    DOVER-FOXCROFT — Next year the town of Dover-Foxcroft’s cable TV franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable, which has been in place since 2000, is set to expire. Last month the selectmen took the first step toward the next agreement with the adoption of a cable TV ordinance, defining what would be in a franchisee agreement, and information on what residents would like has been gathered through a community needs assessment survey conducted at the polls on Election Day.

    During a selectmen’s meeting on Nov. 17 Town Manager Jack Clukey said over 200 surveys were filled out by voters. “We really got a good a sense of the people that did stop, why they have cable TV or why they didn’t have it,” he said, as the survey questions inquired about phone and Internet service as well.
    The survey said that a majority of those responding felt their TV, phone and/or Internet was adequate to meet their household’s educational, employment or business and health-related needs. Those without cable TV service said their reasoning, in order of the number of responses, includes too costly, not available at their location, prefer satellite service and do not watch enough TV.
    “The next process is we need to send out a request for proposals, for at least from Time Warner Cable and maybe some other cable companies,” Clukey said. He said the hope is to have these requests sent out before the end of the year.
    “So we will hear more about that in the next few weeks,” Select Vice Chair Cindy Freeman Cyr said.
    Cable providers interested in servicing Dover-Foxcroft would work with the select board’s promotion and development committee on negotiating the details of a franchise agreement, which would then be voted on by the selectmen. Such an agreement can be for up to 15 years, or less depending on what the parties opt for.
    Before those taking the survey provided the feedback, they and others voted on a pair of ordinances as part of the referendum ballot. “Both were very close votes,” Clukey said.
    The fireworks ordinance passed with 969 saying “yes” and 886 voting “no”, so now fireworks are restricted in Dover-Foxcroft to where the law was before the state made changes several years ago.
    The traffic incident ordinance was voted down by a count of 920 to 874 with 113 ballots having this question left blank. This ordinance would have enabled town officials to bill non-residents and non-property owners for cost, including personnel, equipment and supplies, when first-responders are called on scene at traffic incidents — such as firefighters spending several hours detouring vehicles around a closed section of road.
    If the selectmen so choose, this ordinance or a revised version can be placed on a future ballot. Freeman Cyr wondered if the protection committee may take a look at the document for next June’s referendum or sooner if a special election ends up being needed for another matter.
    In other business, the area’s new legislator Rep. Norm Higgins (R-Dover-Foxcroft) spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I just want the board to know if there are issues I can address at the legislative level to please don’t hesitate to let me know,” he said.
    Higgins said during a session in Augusta for first-time legislators he heard many in attendance discuss municipal revenue sharing and how this program needs to be protected for municipalities.
    Selectman Scott Taylor asked about the uniform building code, which impacts Dover-Foxcroft due to the size of its population and has caused problems in recent years for some property owners. Higgins responded by saying during the campaign he met one resident who said he has had seven visits in conjunction with a project and “the aggravation seemed to be greater than the cost.”
    Clukey said the Maine Municipal Association is looking for sponsors on a bill to make the uniform building code optional for towns.
    “As an interesting sidenote, 43 of 68 Republicans are first-time representatives,” Higgins said. “I think there’s a fresh voice in the Republication Party with all those first-timers.” He said he is awaiting his committee assignment, and plans to meet with the selectmen again in the spring or sooner if needed.
    During a report on the recreation committee, Clukey said, “Looking ahead to winter sports, numbers are higher than they have ever been.” He said officials with the youth sports programs are working with the Penquis Higher Education Center to be able to continue to use gym space at that facility.
    “We talked about how we are going to do Learn to Skate again,” Clukey said, likely in January/February at the fairgrounds rink.
    Taylor said with this program there is a need for helmets as “that’s what they usually show up without, a hockey helmet.” The town is looking for helmets that can be used by Learn to Skate participants, and these can dropped off at either the Morton Avenue Municipal Building or the Piscataquis Regional YMCA.
    “Anything would be appreciated,” Taylor said.
    In his town manager’s report, Clukey said public works will be performing some maintenance on the Lincoln Street bridge to address an area near the catch basin that has shown some signs of erosion.  He also said tile work has been done in the restrooms at the municipal building.
    Dover-Foxcroft will be one of the communities across the region with Hometown Holidays events on Saturday, Dec. 6. At 5 p.m. on that date will be a short Christmas parade, including Santa and Mrs. Claus traveling to the fire station to once again visit with children and hear what they would like to find in their stockings.

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