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Differences aired on Wakefield public TV channel access

Selectmen hear proposal on lowering the town's electricity costs

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
June 21, 2012
WAKEFIELD — Wakefield selectmen met with public access TV Station Manager Jerry O'Connor on June 13 to hear his side of complaints about the station made by resident Relf Fogg at the board's last meeting on May 23.

At the earlier meeting Fogg said that his group, Concerned Residents of Wakefield (CROW) was not getting its taped meeting aired.

O'Connor told selectmen on June 13 that he not doing anything bad on the Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) channel. "I've been accused of keeping people from the PEG channel when actually I have been trying to get more programming for it," citing broadcasts of Parks and Recreation events, police retirements and sports as well as Board of Selectmen meetings. He said the amount of programming now getting on the air "shows we are not blocking people from the channel."

He admitted there have been problems with the bulletin board but after much work all 50 slides are back up again. He emphasized most of the work is done with volunteer labor, chiefly his.

As the problem with broadcast the last CROW meeting, he said Ed Comeau of governmentoversite.com had taped the meeting and left a DVD of it in the PEG channel mailbox on Friday, which O'Connor picked up on Monday. He then found a problem with the format of the DVD, which had to be reformatted before it would play correctly. The problem showed up when the disc "froze" on the title screen and failed to play the rest of the disc.

While the next DVD turned in also froze up just this evening, O'Connor said Comeau has agreed to make future discs in the Channel 3 format, so there should be no problem going forward. He said he sent an e-mail to Town Administrator Teresa Williams on the disc problem.

Selectman Peter Kasprzyk said the only complaint he has heard is about sound quality. The sound quality is better on Comeau's Web site.

O'Connor point out that Comeau has better equipment. "If we can get franchise fees we can then upgrade our equipment." He praised Access TV in Concord as being a good supplier that stands behind their equipment and in nearby. When the DVD player stopped working it had to go back to Connecticut, which is a problem.

Selectmen Charlie Edwards, who had been running CROW before Fogg, said there had been seven complaints, not one or two. He speculated that if the name on the complaint was not Relf Fogg, "would we pay attention?"

Selectman Chair Ken Paul said all complaints should be in writing andmade when problems occur, not later. He said he doesn't have cable in his house, so he would not know if there was a problem. "We shouldn't get personal tonight. We shouldn't look back. We have to move forward." Kasprzyk agreed the focus should be on moving forward.

Edwards asked why there was no longer a board for the PEG channel.

Kasprzyk responded that there is a board – it's the selectmen. "There seems to be a personal rivalry here," he said and added that the station has been asked to form a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that would allow it to be independent of the town and have its own board.

O'Connor agreed that there was a personal element in the complaints. "I am concerned about that personal element, that Relf is mad at me."

Edwards asked if O'Connor could use so help at the station. O'Connor replied that he had asked for volunteers to help.

"I've offered to help Jerry many times," Fogg spoke up from the audience. "It is discriminatory."

Kasprzyk opined "If I'm not getting along with someone, I'm not going to ask him for help."

Paul said there is a budget that will allow paying $10 an hour for help when needed. He advised O'Connor to call Williams right away when help is needed.

O'Connor acknowledged the advice with thanks.

Titan Energy

Jerry Hawkins, Senior Partner in Titan Energy based in Kingston, made a presentation to the board on his company's energy consulting services, which help towns save money on electricity and natural gas. Titan is currently working with Gilford, Laconia and Hampton in New Hampshire.

He said that the town can choose to go with a third party supplier for electricity and lock in a fixed price for a fixed period of time – a move that will help in budgeting. PSNH changes rates every six months and those rates have been increasing. The PSNH rate is now 8.75 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). With a third party one can get rates as low as 6 cents, depending on usage. With the town's eight PSNH accounts it could save $4,000 on a one-year contract at 6.82 cents and $7,000 for two years at 6.97 cents.

Now is the best time to consider a change because rates are now at historic lows thanks to low natural gas prices, which have a big impact on New England electric pricing.

He presented the board with a copy of a bill to the town of Gilford from PSNH. The third party charges show up on the PSNH bill as "Energy Supply Services": there is no separate bill. There are no fees to sign up. Simply notify the utility t use the third party supplier, which in Wakefield case would probably be Integrys Energy.

He said his company looks for the best supplier offering the best price for the period selected. At the end of the period the best choice may be another supplier like Constellation Energy.

School board member Steve Brown asked from the audience if the school could join with the town to get a better rate.

Hawkins said that since the school is not active in the summer, when peak demand is, to overall usage pattern could produce a lower combined rate, down to 6.5 or 6.3 cents per kWh.

Hawkins answered a few more questions, assuring selectmen that penalties for canceling would be minimal if they so decided and that if rates went down still further if they chose a long-term contract, they could extend the current contract at a lower rate ("blend and extend").

Chairman Paul said the town was interested but that they are currently locked into a supply agreement with PSNH for the next six months. In the meantime he said the town would check in with Titan's other town customers.

Other business

The board opened bids for paving. There were only two bids, from Brox of Massachusetts and from F.R. Carroll of Limerick, Maine. After comparing the two bids and asking a few questions from the F.R. Carroll representative (there was no representative from Brox), the board voted to award the contract to F.R. Carroll for $58,779.

Selectmen briefly discussed the issue of Town Hall hours. Complaints have been that the town hours are inadequate for those who work outside of town. Paul said he would like to see offices open on Wednesday nights but preferred to wait for the MRI report on town operations before discussing further. Williams said that hours could be rearranged rather than adding hours – open later and stay open later.

Kasprzyk proposed that the town and school set up a joint Vehicle Maintenance Committee to see if both could save money by combining vehicle maintenance. School board member Judy Nason said it may turn out that there would not be much in savings but the two boards should look into it. Selectmen agreed. Paul moved to assign Kasprzyk to the committee along with someone from the highway and police departments.

School board member Brown asked if the board objected to all school buses parking at the town garage. He said he had talked with Fred Clough who thought it would be OK. Pauls aid it may be necessary to set up a separate power source and meters for the buses, but that was OK.

The school also asked for and received some clean fill from the town to fill a hole near the school.

Due to considerations of length, the rest of the Wakefield meeting, which included a discussion of paving on Oak Hill Road and a milfoil grant for Balch Lake will be reported next week.

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