WHITMAN — Selectmen have authorized Town Administrator Frank Lynam to approach Verizon about negotiating an extension of fiber-optic cable television service to Whitman under a secondary cable license.
If successful it would mean an added option to, not a replacement of, Comcast service in town. The current contract between the town and Comcast expires in 2022.
“We have a license with Comcast,” Lynam said. “Verizon has not indicated any interest in coming to Whitman since we last met about seven years ago.”
That position might be changing.
“They have begun build-outs,” Lynam said of Verizon. “So I would like to approach Verizon, rather than waiting for them to get to us and perhaps offer some inducements to come up with a plan to provide fiber-optic service in Whitman.”
He required the board’s permission to begin that process.
Vice Chairman Dan Salvucci asked if there would be continued financial support for Whitman-Hanson Community Access Television’s studio. Lynam said WHCA is funded by access fees paid by cable customers channeled through Comcast.
“Obviously, if we bring another cable company into Whitman, we would have to provide some accommodation and we would expect them to provide similar services in terms of public access,” he said.
Verizion would eventually have to apply for a license, with Selectman required to hear their application and issue public notice.
In other business, Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski reminded Whitman residents of the May 21 annual Town Election and the important override question on the ballot.
“I think we have to think long and hard about spending the money to take care of our schools better than we’re taking care of them now,” Kowalski said. “As I said at the Town Meeting, we’ve done really well in this town getting through an economic downturn. We haven’t let people go, we’ve been able to treat our firemen and our policemen well … I don’t know if we can say the same thing about the schools.”
Kowalski said it is time to think about changing that pattern where the schools are concerned. He and Vice Chairman Dan Salvucci also credited the Finance Committee, led by people like chairman William Capocci, stepping down after 22 years, and Don Hunt, leaving after serving 23 years, as well as Lynam’s efforts in managing the town’s finances. Whitman has the lowest tax rate in the immediate area right now.
“It’s time to do all right by the kids,” Kowalski said. “I was thinking today how important my teachers were … you spend so much time from age 5 or 6 to 17 with a special group of people who could use our support.”
Lynam noted that teachers, such as his daughter in-law, spend hours before and after school hours in unpaid preparation.
“A teacher’s job doesn’t begin when they walk into the school and it doesn’t end when they go home,” he said.
The override, if successful in Whitman, is good until the tax rate is set in the fall, according to Lynam. Should one town pass it and the other reject it, it fails by default unless the other town revotes before that time.
“I think the most confusing situation will be if one town passes and one doesn’t,” he said. “That would be breaking new ground.”
Lynam also expressed appreciation for the work done at Town Meeting, May 2.
“I am extremely thankful that we completed Town Meeting in one night with very little controversy,” Lynam said.
“And keeping democracy safe in Whitman,” Kowalski said.
“So I hear,” Lynam replied.