HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, June 14 discussed reviewing the regional contract for Whitman-Hanson Community Access Television with legal counsel over budget, programming and personnel concerns since the current contract’s expiration last year.
Selectman Bruce Young said he received a call from a resident seeking information on “how cable access is run.”
“I first got involved in cable, back in the ’80s when I did a program, I just assumed that everything was taken care of by the cable company,” he said. “Which it was, I’m assuming, up until 2005 when this nonprofit corporation was formed between the two towns.”
Young obtained a copy of the most recent agreement between Hanson and Whitman, establishing the quasi-nonprofit corporation in 2005. He said that agreement expired in 2014.
It actually expired in 2015, according to Chairman of the WHCA Board of Dirctors Arlene Dias of Hanson, who plans to attend the next Selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, June 28 to “clarify inaccuracies” in the June 14 discussion and to answer selectmen’s questions.
The contract’s expiration date was one of those inaccuracies, she said.
Dias said the cable access contact should have been renewed at the same time as Hanson’s license contract with Comcast, which was completed in June 2015. New to her position, Dias said Monday she was not previously aware that had not been done. The last WHCA contract, approved 10 years ago, was finalized six months after the licensing agreement.
Rent on the Whitman studio is paid by the town of Whitman based on the amount of taxation it would pay, according to the 2005 pact. Young estimated the value of its equipment at about $340,000. An annual report and financial report are to be presented to both towns’ selectmen, as well as the results of a biannual audit.
Town Administrator Michael McCue has reached out to lawyer Bill Solomon, who works in cable TV law, and to Whitman Town Administrator Frank Lynam to discuss Young’s concerns.
Dias has assured him that the required reports have been filed, McCue said.
“All of the money that goes to support that cable studio appears to come out of [public access, educational and government] PEG — a percentage of everybody’s cable bill is devoted to funding that studio,” Young said. “The Board of Selectmen have a right to oversee how that money’s being spent, who the employees are — who’s getting paid — what their annual budget is, and how that money is being doled out.”
The board of directors represents the two towns equally, although there are vacancies, which Young argued should be done by the Hanson Board of Selectmen.
The late Stephen Roy had been retained in the full-time executive director post by a vote of Whitman Selectmen, Young noted.
“I’m assuming that any replacement of Stephen Roy would have to go through the Whitman Board of Selectmen,” He said. “I don’t see anything in the agreement as to who actually hires that particular individual, who replaces [them] or how it’s done.”
“I think we ought to consider getting a new director [to replace Roy] and a very qualified one for that position,” said Hanson resident Richard Edgehille. He advocated a person capable of conducting an outreach program to carry the facility into the future.
“It’s been lackadaisical and I think it’s time we move forward,” he said, charging that meetings are slow to be put on the air.
“We need to be briefed on what the process is,” said Selectmen Chairman James McGahan. “Maybe we need new blood in there.”
Liaisons set aside
In other business selectmen decided to discontinue public safety liaisons for the time being, but would prefer retaining regular reports from department heads.
“I feel we have strong department heads, excellent department heads, I think they do a great job,” said Selectman Kenny Mitchell. “With Mike [McCue] here, I think we have an excellent town administrator to work with these department heads and I just don’t think … we need to keep it.”
Selectman Bill Scott agreed, noting that as Police Department liaison he has not met with the chief in six months, but urging that the monthly reports be continued.
“There’s a war on police currently,” Scott said. “The job is way different even from when I was on the job — the shootings have by far increased. Our police have to be trained on this terrorist activity … I’m sure they are getting that, but they need more.”
Monthly reports are the best way of keeping up with the needs to support police and fire personnel, he said.
The board also approved by consensus a list of goals and objectives for McCue, largely from a list Young compiled. That list includes:
• Completion of the demolition of the former Plymouth County Hospital and establish an acceptable plan for developing the site;
• Taking action, by litigation if necessary, to cancel the cell tower contract with Bay Communications, opening the prospects for other carriers;
• Working with the regional school committee to make necessary changes in the regional school agreement;
• Replacing the inadequate Highway Department facilities with the project at the former Lite Control site;
• Hiring of a new Recreation Services Director and work with the commission to make better use of Camp Kiwanee facilities;
• Encouraging land use committees to work more closely together to bring more commercial and light industrial business to town;
• All government boards and officials responsible for planning and conducting the town meetings should work together to ensure they are open, fair and purest form of democracy “by encouraging and promoting attendance and active participation and actively question articles and budget that they deem necessary.”
The School Committee is already working on a review of the regional agreement.
Scott requested the addition of another goal, noting the Police Department still needs to appoint a sergeant and has been without a lieutenant since the resignation of Lt. Joseph Yakavonis in January.
“Mr. McCue should work on that, possibly with the chief of police, to set up a testing agency with someone to see if any of our sergeants would be interested, or if we want to fill the lieutenant’s position,” Scott said.
McGahan advocated inclusion of the audit recommendation for changes in accounting procedures and a review of the open space agreement.