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Local cable station to sign off at Brandon High School



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January 26, 2011 - Brandon Twp.- The local cable station needs a new home.

OTV, the local cable access station (Channel 99), is looking for a new location to house its studio and broadcasting equipment.

The OTV studio has been located at Brandon High School since the 1980s, in an arrangement with the district where the high school provides the room and insurance while the township pays for broadcasting equipment. It has been an advantage for both as students learn about broadcasting and students also work for the station. However, the agreement is coming to an end as the district takes advantage of Career and Technical Education grant money and obeys the rules that come along with receiving state and federal funds.

"We're excited about the grant," said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "We're sorry it puts us in a position of changing our relationship with the township, but it's too good of an opportunity to turn down."

The district will receive $60,000 this year from the grant, dedicated to the broadcasting class. New cameras and production equipment will be purchased with the funds.

"The township equipment can't keep up with what we could purchase with grant money," said McMahon. "If we want the class to grow to giving students professional skills, we can only do so by expanding our capacity— more equipment and better quality."

The township board and Ortonville Village Council are now seeking a 1,600 square-foot building with high ceilings in which to house the OTV studio and equipment.

Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman said there were good and bad sides to moving the station.

"The cable workers will have more accessibility to the station," she noted. "When school is closed, they can't get in there. We will still maintain our relationship with the school broadcasting program. The downside is moving the station will be an added expense. (Rent) will be paid for from the cable franchise fees. The township could use those funds if they weren't being used by the cable station for other things, like police services."

Thurman expects the moving of the station to take place this summer.

Cable Coordinator Greg Normand will also finally have a written contract after more than a decade without one after the township board approved a consulting agreement detailing what is expected of him during their Jan. 18 meeting and the village council approved the agreement during their Jan. 24 meeting. The 1-year contract compensates Normand $30,000.

The Ortonville Village Council also approved the transfer of $70,000 in cable franchise fees from a cable fund into the township and village general funds. The township will have $60,648 of the cable franchise fees transferred to their general fund as their portion, and $9,352 will be transferred to the village general fund. The balance remaining in the joint cable fund will be roughly $144,000, which Village Manager Larry Brown said is enough to operate the cable station for "a good while" and also enough to cover any major equipment failures.

Combined, the Village of Ortonville and Brandon Township received roughly $140,000 in cable franchise fees from Charter this year.

Half of that is used to support the local cable access station, OTV, providing a salary for the cable coordinator and wages for Brandon High School students who assist in cable operations, as well as funds to be used for equipment and repairs. The other half is surplus.

In October, the village and township finished the first year of a 10-year uniform agreement with Charter. The sole cable provider in this area charges subscribers a fee that is 3 to 5 percent of their total cable bill, then reimburses the municipalities which have permitted Charter to keep cable equipment here, said Brown. The new uniform franchise fees result in more money to the municipalities than in prior agreements.

Thurman said the fee is stipulated by Charter and the township and village have no control over the amount collected. If Charter were to lose customers, the amount of money the municipalities receive would decrease.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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