December 21, 2011 - Oxford Township officials are looking to change the voting membership of the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission to make it more equitable, in their view, in terms of representing the entities that fund it.
Last week, the township board voted 5-2 to recommend the cable commission change its composition to consist of three voting representatives from Oxford Township, two from Addison Township and one each from the villages of Oxford and Leonard.
The recommendation is contingent on all four municipalities contributing to the cable commission 100 percent of the cable franchise fees they receive from Charter Communications and AT&T.
This new makeup would give one additional vote to both Oxford and Addison townships, take one vote away from Oxford Village and completely eliminate the Oxford Public Library's seat on the commission.
Unlike the four municipalities, the library does not receive any cable franchise fees nor does it contribute any funding to the cable commission, which funds and oversees Oxford Community Television (OCTV), the local public access station.
"I would like to see the library taken off of this," said township Supervisor Bill Dunn.
"I think it's fantastic," said Cable Commissioner Charles Kniffen, who represents Oxford Township. "That gets rid of the non-paying people voting to spend our money."
Oxford Township officials believe they should have the most voting members on the cable commission because they contribute 80 percent of the funding.
So far this year, the township has received $70,489 in franchise fees from Charter (January to June) and $46,189 from AT&T (first three quarters of 2011).
"With the way this board is made up (now), everybody else on there is spending Oxford Township cable money," said township Treasurer Joe Ferrari. "I'm a cable subscriber. They're spending my money."
Trustee Sue Bellairs was particularly upset that Oxford and Addison townships, whom she called the "two biggest contributors," were "overruled" in the recent firing of OCTV station manager Don Huegerich by commissioners representing "two little villages" and two entities that don't help fund the cable commission, the library and Oxford Community Schools.
"I thought that was kind of serious," she said.
Huegerich was terminated in a 5-3 vote on Nov. 30. Voting in favor of the firing were Oxford Village's two commissioners and the three commissioners representing Leonard, the library and the school district.
Voting against the termination were Oxford Township's two representatives and Addison's commissioner.
Since then, the school district informed the cable commission that it no longer wished to have voting representatives since it does not contribute any funding.
On Dec. 12, the commission voted to amend its bylaws to eliminate the school district's two seats, reducing the cable board from nine to seven voting members.
Ferrari made it clear he believes in order to have a vote (or votes) on the cable commission, the community being represented must be contributing 100 percent of its franchise fees.
If they don't give all the money, they shouldn't have a vote, in Ferrari's view.
Right now, Addison Township and Oxford Village each contribute 50 percent.
According to Leonard Village President Mike McDonald, his government currently contributes 100 percent of the Charter franchise fees, yet retains all of the AT&T funds.
Oxford Township has been contributing 100 percent for a number of years.
However, in September, officials voted 6-1 to withhold their funding for 2012 until an interlocal agreement for the cable commission is completed and approved, including an update of the body's bylaws.
"No monies shall change hands until these have been updated and approved," the motion stated.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.