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Schools OK public access TV merger

July 10, 2013 - Despite objections of the committee overseeing local cable operations, Clarkston Board of Education voted unanimously, July 8, to approve a media lease agreement with Independence Township.

The Township Board was to consider the proposal to move its public access cable operations to Clarkston High School at its meeting, Tuesday.

Independence Television Committee members Stacy Meagher and Rob Namowicz spoke against the plan during public comment, Monday.

"We have a great facility (on Maybee Road) we've put a lot of time into making it better, and it's just going to go away," Meagher said.

"I have some concerns with the merger," she said. "There's no real plan of action, no benchmarks to meet, no exit strategy for the people the public has no voice in this."

Namowicz, citing an autobiography by Stephen Austin, the Father of Texas, said the agreement is based on "judgment clouded by hope."

"I urge a 'no' on the agreement," he said.

Independence Township Pat Kittle thanked committee members for their work, and said the agreement has been reviewed by township and school attorneys and complies with all rules regulating public access television.

"Our goals are pretty simple share the equipment with the children, reduce operational expenditures on our side, and use capital funds in a manner consistent with capital expenditure rules," Kittle said.

According to the agreement, the township pays $200,000 collected in franchise fees to the school district every year as a capital lease, managed by a new independent authority, the Video Center Administrative Board.

"And can only be used for the direct support of the Public Access video center, equipment and staffing needs," Kittle said.

"No other school expenses will be allowed to be paid under this arrangement."

According to the agreement, the seven-member board would include a school board member, township board member, three township residents appointed by the township board, and two school district residents appointed by the school board.

Each year, the township collects franchise fees, which go into its general fund. Franchise fees, different than Public, Education, Government (PEG) fees, are collected by the township from utility companies to retain the right to install utility lines in right of ways, or strips of land which the township retains ownership over.

"Franchise fees will continue to be used to supplement the township's general fund," said Kittle.

Presently the township has over $500,000 saved up in franchise fees.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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