HOPATCONG BOROUGH, NJ – While most Sussex County municipalities receive cable television service through Service Electric, the borough has a contract with Cablevision, a provider primarily in the New York Metropolitan Area.

Borough council renewed the contract on Wednesday, Dec. 5 (click here for the story by The Alternative Press). Mayor Sylvia Petillo said at the time council was somewhat concerned no other service company had expressed interest in coming in, but, if they did, the company would have to build an entirely new infrastructure to serve the borough. Cablevision’s lines are already in.

By signing a 10-year contract, the borough receives two percent of the payments from customers, she said. In addition, senior citizens who meet state financial standards receive a 10 percent discount, a $20,000 grant for technology, and free service to municipally and school district owned buildings.

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“If we don’t give them a franchise, we won’t get anything back,” Councilman Richard Bunce said.

Only one resident spoke on the cable issue during the public portion of the council meeting. Michelle Guttenberger said she is a contract analyst and believes 10 years is a very long time for a cable contract to run.

In addition, The Alternative Press received a series of emails from Randall Paulenich, a frequent adversary of the current borough council.

Paulenich contended the council could obtain service from Verizon FIOS. He said FIOS is cheaper and has service when the power is out.

“I didn’t have power, but my Verizon phone was still working,” he said.

He said telecommunications companies are required by the Federal Communications Commission to have battery back up at all central switching stations. He also said the central switching stations where the batteries are located  are required to have generators to keep the batteries charges. 

Petillo said Cablevision was the only service interested in a contract. While Verizon operates over existing telephone lines, and would not have a huge investment in infrastructure, a representative she spoke to told her Verizon is not expanding at the present time.

Although Paulenich disputes the borough spoke to anyone from Verizon, this parallels a 2010 announcement from Verizon saying it was winding down FIOS expansion, and concentrating on completing networks in areas that already have FIOS franchises. That announcement is still on the Verizon website.

As to Paulenich’s contention with a FIOS bundle of services borough residents would have had phone service even during the storm, Petillo said in a telephone interview, “when the poles go down, nobody has service.”

She noted the problem during Superstorm Sandy was that the poles and lines actually did come down.

Petillo also noted while neighboring Roxbury Township has both Cablevision and Verizon FIOS service, that township’s contract is with Cablevision. 

Another issue at the council meeting was questioned by a member of the public.

Mara Modes questioned the cost of copies of video tapes of the council meetings. She and Paulenich, by email, contended the cost was $190.

Borough Clerk Catherine Gleason said the meetings are taped with the security cameras installed for the police department in the meeting room. The room is also the site of both the Hopatcong and Stanhope courts. She said copies of the videos are provided through the security company that installed the equipment. The borough doesn’t have the equipment to make copies.

Gleason also said the videos of the council meetings are rotated every two weeks, so any request for a copy must be made promptly after the meeting.

She said she has only received one request since she became clerk in the summer of 2011.


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