Cable company to seek another building extension

March 15, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Representatives of Mid-Atlantic Cable Co. are expected to ask the County Council tonight for permission to miss yet another construction deadline.

A resolution that would would do just that is one of 21 pieces of legislation the council will weigh in an 8 p.m. public hearing tonight in the county office building.

Under the terms of its 1988 franchise agreement, Mid-Atlantic was required to provide cable television service to 71 western Howard County subdivisions by July 1990.

The company was unable to meet that deadline and the council extended it to December 1990. That deadline was later extended to Dec. 31, 1992. Mid-Atlantic is now asking for a Sept. 30 construction deadline and a Dec. 31 deadline to install a fiber optic delivery system that would carry government, education and public access channels.

The company blames the delays on the economy -- banks refusing to extend loans, higher than anticipated construction costs and fewer subscribers than anticipated.

Most other bills and resolutions on tonight's agenda are routine and are expected to produce little or no debate.

A bill that may cause some debate is one sponsored by C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd. The bill would preserve cemeteries discovered on properties yet to be developed as well as cemeteries that appear on a yet to be completed Planning and Zoning Department inventory.

Developers would have to preserve the cemeteries as open spaces and cede them to the developments' homeowners' associations. The lots would have to be used as burial grounds in perpetuity and would be open to the public.

Once a cemetery is discovered, the Planning and Zoning Department would halt the approval process until a 7-member cemetery preservation advisory board could hold a public hearing and make a recommendation regarding the preservation the cemetery.

In addition to considering the cemetery bill and the cable TV resolution, the council will hold confirmation hearings tonight on 10 nominees to various boards and commissions.

Two of the nominees are people Mr. Ecker has reappointed to the Agricultural Land Preservation Board -- G. Lawrence Moore and James R. Moxley III. Mr. Moore was also reappointed to the Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board.

All other nominees are first-time appointees: Arlene O. Edwards and M. Hillery Scavo, Commission for Women; Ethan Fingerman, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Advisory Board; Larry Joseph Grimes, Plumbing Advisory Board; William Dale Hough, Agricultural Land Advisory and Agricultural Preservation Advisory boards; Debra A. Jung and James Karantonis, Human Rights Commission; and John Corbin Zimmer, Fire and Rescue Services Board. Immediately following tonight's hearing, the council will go into legislative session to authorize an emergency sale of $177 million worth of bonds, the largest in county history.

The council hopes to beat other municipalities into the bond market and refinance $121 million worth of bonds at historically low rates. Included in the sale are $56 million in new bonds for various capital projects.

If the county had been able to refinance the bonds last week, it would have saved $5 million over the next two years. The county could still save that amount or more if interest rates are low enough today or tomorrow.

The county is looking for an interest rate of 5.2 percent or less for the issue. The bond issue may not occur at all if interest rates rise.

Tonight's action will authorize the sale, but not compel it. The underwriter may hold off, if market conditions are not favorable. Assuming conditions are favorable and the sale goes through tomorrow or Wednesday, the council will meet again in legislative session Thursday afternoon to ratify the deal.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker, County Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, and the county's chief financial advisers met with Wall Street analysts in New York last week to lobby for the raising of the county's already high bond rating or for keeping it at its current level. The bond rating agencies will issue their opinions today or tomorrow.

Right now, the county has a top rating of AAA from Fitch, and a rating just below that from Standard and Poor's and Moody's -- Wall Street's leading bond rating houses.

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