SYKESVILLE — For the second time this month, the mayor and Town Council deferred action Monday night on a request from Prestige Cable Television for an extension of its franchise agreement in exchange for a 2 percent increase in revenue.
"Prestige is willing to give the towns 5 percent of the income from town cable subscribers in return for a 10-year extension on the franchise agreement," Prestige chairman Jon Oscher told town officials at the council's Sept. 9 meeting.
The original 1984 agreement called for seven of Carroll's eight towns to receive 3 percent of subscriber revenues over a 15-year period, amounting to some $7,000 annually for Sykesville.
Prestige alsois asking the towns to give back a channel the company has been holding in reserve for their use. Prestige had given the channels to the Carroll County Cable TV Committee for use by the towns as public access channels, but now wants the channels back to offer more services to subscribers, Oscher said.
The cable committee, made up of countyand town representatives, oversees Prestige operations and public access channels. Manchester is not represented because it has its own cable system.
At Monday night's special Town Council meeting, George Lahey, deputy county attorney and legal adviser to the Cable Television Committee, explained Prestige's proposal and the committee's request and answered questions from the council.
Some council membersasked where the additional 2 percent offered by Prestige is supposedto go -- to the towns or to fund public access.
"There is no suchagreement for the cable committee to get the 2 percent extra," Laheytold the council. "The proposal is for the towns and county to get their current revenue plus 1 percent plus the consumer price index inflation factor.
"Any revenues over that total of 5 percent would then go to the trust fund that has been established to fund public access."
In a related matter, Sykesville is concerned over public access Channel 55's proposal to raise additional revenues from possible new subscribers, additional services and rate increases.
Channel 55, headed by Paul LeValley, provides local programming produced by Carroll countians.
The public access channel, Lahey said, gets $60,000 annually from the trust fund established in 1988 as part of an out-of-court settlement in a non-compliance with contract lawsuit filed by the county against Prestige. The fund currently holds about $452,000.
Channel 55 wants the added revenue to build the trust fund so that public access can become self-sufficient.
Councilman Walter White questioned whether subscribers should be charged for public access if they don't watch Channel 55 and asked if a survey had been done to see how many people watch the channel.
Lahey said he had no figures on what subscribers watch.
Sykesville's committee representative, Town Manager James L. Schumacher, said his opinion against the Prestige proposal seems to be a minority opinion on the committee.
Council President Kenneth W. Clark suggested that if the other towns on the committee go along with the proposal when it comes to a vote, perhaps Sykesville should agree as well.
"If they agree to the higher rate (given to the town), our people will pay for it (in eventualhigher rates), and we may as well go along and bring some of that money back to the town," Clark said.
After deferring any decision until gaining further information, the council decided to invite LeValley, coordinator for public access Channel 55, to its next meeting on Oct. 14.