Wakefield selectmen sign Time Warner Cable contract

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
December 19, 2013
WAKEFIELD — Following a public hearing at the beginning of their Dec. 11 regular meeting, Wakefield selectmen voted unanimously to sign a contract with Time Warner Cable.

Time Warner had become Wakefield's cable television provider in 2006 when it acquired Adelphia Communications and took over the existing cable contract. The renewal agreement with Time Warner Cable has been in negotiation since August 2011.

The only member of the audience who spoke at the public hearing was Jim Miller, president of ClearView Community Television Services, the nonprofit organization that runs the Wakefield public access (PEG) station under contract with the town.

Miller noted that the final contract version under consideration is the result of a multi-year process where the Board of Selectmen has tried "to get the best possible value for Wakefield residents," despite the fact that the board was not allowed to negotiate prices and was dealing with a large corporation over a 2,500-subscriber contract. "We didn't get everything we wanted," he said.

Among the benefits will be an improved PEG channel with a higher-quality signal and there will be an effort made to extend access into non-served areas of town.

Miller said a lot of people were involved in getting the contract to this point, that it was not a quick decision, and he urged the board to sign it.

Once the contract is in effect, the town will be paid a franchise fee based on TV subscribers. The fee will be turned over to ClearView, which will use it to upgrade equipment.

Selectman Connie Twombley praised Miller for his many contributions to the process.

Selectman Chair Ken Paul reviewed the main points of the agreement:

- The term is for 10 years and the contract is non-exclusive.

- Both the school and town receive free basic cable television service (but not premium channels or internet).

- After the first year a second PEG channel can be opened at Paul School with a $10,000 equipment grant paid by subscribers at the rate of six cents per month over 10 years.

- The town can revoke the agreement if Time Warner defaults.

- A senior discount is available for basic cable television service (not including premium plans, internet or bundles).

The public hearing was closed and selectmen voted 3-0 to sign the contract.

Personnel policy changes

Selectmen reviewed the latest version of the town personnel policy prepared by Town Administrator Teresa Williams that incorporated recent changes adopted by the board. Among them are:

- Clear definitions of hourly and salaried positions;

- Definition of furlough days as unpaid leave and exemptions for active firemen and police officers;

- A new cellphone section that prohibits calls and texting while on town business, even in private automobiles, and use while at work (outside of authorized break times and in family emergencies);

- Clarification of benefits, including earned time, which begins to accumulate when an employee starts work but can't be used for six months; also notes that negative earned time is possible with advance approval;

- Makes clear when holiday pay checks are distributed;

- Allows banked sick time to be given to another employee with a serious illness;

- Limits the use of extended sick time to once a year;

- Changes the insurance language to conform with the Affordable Care Act and adjusts the waiting period from 90 to 60 days;

- Clarifies when overtime can be used to make up lost time;

- Firemen get 9.5 hours holiday time because they work 12-hour shifts;

Only one provision provoked discussion. The new policy says that firemen will be paid at overtime rates if they have use up their regular hours and have to attend the mandated five-hours-per-month training. Selectman Charlie Edwards questioned why that should be allowed. Williams said Chief Todd Nason schedules training during regular time but if firemen have been out on a fire that used up their regular hours, they still have to do the training. It is not common but it does happen.

The board voted 3-0 to adopt the updated policy.

Pay study

Selectmen reviewed a pay survey of 14 towns done by Police Chief Ken Fifield. He used a study done for the town of Lincoln by MRI and called the towns included to get current pay information. The data provided for the positions covered an Average Low, Average Middle and Average High.

After reviewing the draft the board decided to replace Wolfeboro with Tuftonboro as being closer in size. Milton and Ossipee are also included.

Williams said the study should be completed in time for the board's first meeting in January, on Jan. 8.

Jim Miller asked if the completed spreadsheet would be made available on the town website. Selectmen agreed it could, since it is public information.

2013 Encumbered funds

Selectmen reviewed four requests to encumber or hold over funds budgeted for 2013 so they could be spent in 2014.

The Greater Wakefield Resource Center asked to encumber $2,500 for exterior painting.

The highway department requested $17,832 be carried over for new culverts and catch basins on High Street.

The building department asked that $3,591 be encumbered to finish the office renovations downstairs.

The land use department requested $3,500 be carried over to complete two chapters of the Master Plan.

The board approved all four requests

Other business

Selectmen gave approval for the second year for the Evergreen Valley Snowmobile Club to use the closed Maple Street bridge in Union for member snowmobiles and the club's groomer. The highway department plows a bank of snow at each end that allows the snowmobiles to pass but not cars or trucks.

Gafney Librarian Beryl Donovan gave the board an update on the library's expansion plans. The trustees have decided to expand from 3,000 to 10,000 square feet on the existing site and has signed a contract with neighbor Fred Guldbrandsen to acquire the lots beside and behind the current library building. See separate article.

The board discussed an invitation to join the Mosaic Parcel Map Data Sharing Pool which would allow the town and other towns who joined online access to each others tax maps. The data can only be used by government officials, not the general public. A poll of the board came up with two maybes and one no, so no action was taken. It was noted that the town can sign up at any time.

Selectmen signed a renewal contract with Cartographic Associates of Littleton to maintain the town's tax maps at the same cost as 2013.

Edwards reported that the highway department is all ready with sand and plows for winter.

Twombley reported going to a lecture by the fire chief in Holderness who went over all that a chief needs to do to keep his department up-to-date. She said Wakefield's Chief Nason "does it all" and she is proud of the town's department.

The board voted to send Nason a letter of appreciation for his good work.

Selectmen gave Transfer Station employee Leroy Adams permission to trap at the station and in the area of the town's septage lagoons during non-working hours. Adams is a certified trapper and does not charge to remove rats from the transfer station.

The board approved having an energy assessment done of all town buildings.

Two bids were received to do the town report. Selectman chose last year's printer, C & K, for $1,845 and to produce only 500 copies, down from 600 last year.

Selectmen approved Williams' suggestion to run a contest to choose the cover photograph on the report. Any photos of town sites are welcome and the deadline is Feb. 1.

The board signed the new Sand Use Policy. Paul reported he has gotten questions on the new policy from the Maine attorney general and two contractors.

Paul announced that the town's Deliberative Session will be held on Saturday, Feb. 1, with Saturday, Feb. 8, being the snow date. The public hearing on the 2014 budget will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

The board's next regular meeting in December would fall on Christmas Day, so it was cancelled. The next meeting of the Wakefield Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.

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