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Use it or lose it for Springfield PEG funds

September 15, 2010 - It's back to the drawing board for officials looking to spend Springfield Township's cable fund balance.

Clerk Laura Moreau worked with Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Tucker and Program Specialist Rich Ashley on a plan to spend about $48,000 of it.

Think bigger, other Springfield Township Board members told them.

"We need to develop the plan more," said Trustee Dennis Vallad, at the Sept. 9 township meeting. "I'm all for spending that money – if we don't spend it, there's a really good chance it'll be pulled in the next negotiation."

Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) fees paid by cable subscribers in the township bring in about $60,000 a year, accumulating a total of $367,172.24.

The franchise agreement limits use of the money to equipment, production, and support of PEG programming.

The plan called for up to $4,000 for production of 10 new episodes of Springfield Township's cable show "Team Reptile," starring Ashley and local campers. It also included up to $44,000 for a new video production community education course and studio through parks and recreation, with Ashley as instructor.

The Township Board voted unanimously to approve the new episodes, but tabled the classroom idea.

"It's a narrow, specific use – let's look at the bigger picture," said Treasurer Jamie Dubre. "The PEG money comes through the franchise agreement – there's no guarantee we'll get 2 percent next time."

They should work with township property manager Mike Forst and Supervisor Mike Trout to develop an overall package of upgrades, Dubre said.

"Let's integrate everything – this is the logical time to do it," said Trustee David Hopper.

"It's quite a bit of money, but it's there, and it can only be used for certain things," Vallad said. "If we don't use it, it's another piece Comcast can use to eliminate them in the future."

The proposed classroom in township hall would offer hands-on course for residents, create government access programming on environmental issues, Heritage Festival, Road Rally, Easter Egg Hunt, and other parks and recreation activities, library summer reading program, elections, and other township news.

"I'd like to see the PEG funds used for the video facility – it would be a great asset," said Trustee Judy Hensler. "I understand there's lots more to do. There's a lot of money sitting there. I think we should use it to residents' benefit."

As part of Comcast's franchise agreement with local governments, the cable company is required by law to pay a percentage of its profit from cable customers in the area to the government. The funds are used to support public access programming.

In Springfield Township, Comcast and AT&T pay a quarterly percentage based on gross annual receipts in the community.

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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