Summit Common Council to Vote Tonight on 20K Increase for Funding to HomeTowne TV

SUMMIT, NJ – Tonight at the 7:30 p.m. regular meeting of the Common Council members will vote on a resolution to authorize a new contract with HomeTowne Television, which would increase Summit’s annual contribution to the station from $25,000 to $45,000.

HomeTowne TV, a 501(c)(3), has provided access management services in connection with the administration of access Chanel 36 since 1980 and the Verizon channel 33 since its inception in 2008.

The proposal from HomeTowne is to increase the amount paid by the city of Summit for special coverage so that the contribution would be the greater of $45,000 or 25 percent of annual cable television franchise fees from all providers for 2011 and in future years.

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According to city Administrator Chris Cotter, the increase will pay for additional hours of programming in Summit. “The station is seeking a substantial increase in the amount the city pays,” he said.

Per Mr. Cotter’s July 7 memo to Mayor Glatt and members of the Council, the 2010 franchise fees received from Verizon and Comcast amounted to $280,000. Using this as an example for future years ($280,000 x .25), the contribution from Summit to the station will be $70,000.

Cotter explained that representatives from HomeTowne TV report that Summit’s contribution consists of less than 12 percent of their budget budget; however, the production hours attributed to Summit represent 43 percent of the overall station programming. The proposed increase in funding is intended to reflect the level of service provided.

According to the draft agreement, HomeTowne will produce and broadcast a range of programs including at a minimum a Mayor’s show, a Council President’s show, Planning and Zoning Board meetings and Board of School Estimate meetings. Other programs may include high school athletic events, shows that feature the downtown and city parks.

The 20K increase was discussed at the July 12 meeting of the Council, but was not voted upon as members were awaiting proper pay-to-play documentation that would specify regulations on the proposed contract.

City Solicitor Barry Osmun categorized the contract as an “Extraordinary Unspecifiable Service,” which can be excluded from the public bid as the contract exceeds the bid threshold of $17,5000.

According to Ward II Councilman and mayoral candidate Mike Vernotico, the Council will make the best decision for the taxpayers. “Particularly in communities like ours, all media outlets are critical. People lead busy lives and need to stay informed of all the issues,” he said.  “I’m certainly in support of filming town meetings, but the Council Liaison's  show is a waste of money. I will approach the issue with an open mind and do what is in the best interest of the community. ”

The meeting will be open for public comment. “The public is always invited to come to meetings of the Common Council,” said Councilor-at-large Stephen Murphy.  “We work to be transparent about how we conduct our business.”

Tonight’s meeting will be held tonight, August 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Council Chambers in City Hall at 512 Springfield Avenue in Summit.


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