City’s plan to hike cable television fees gets short-circuited

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

The Glenwood City Council has pulled the plug on a proposal to generate additional revenue for the city’s general fund by raising cable television fees.

Glenwood City Administrator / Finance Director Mary Smith told council members that based on figures from the 2008 calendar year, over $12,000 could be generated annually if the city were to raise the franchise fee it collects from Mediacom from the current rate of 3 percent to 5 percent.

The franchise fee is assessed to Mediacom and then passed down by the cable television provider to individual subscribers in Glenwood, mayor Dyle Downing said.

The proposed ordinance was put to a vote at the council’s regular meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 27, but failed by a 3-2 margin after council member Craig Florian voiced concerns about the impact the hike in fees would have on monthly cable television bills in Glenwood. Florian said he’s received numerous complaints in recent months about the rising cost of cable television service provided by Mediacom.

“It’s my understanding that this fee increase would actually be initiated by the city,” Florian said. “I’m hearing too many complaints from my constituents (about cable television rates) to support this.”

Downing said he did the math and raising the franchise fee to 5 percent would result in an increase of approximately $1.50 to $2 on his own monthly cable television bill.

“It’s kind of a Catch 22,” Downing said. “It’s hard to get the services to the public that they need, but you could end up taxing them to death. If we put it (higher franchise fee) on, it would raise their cable bills even more. Like Craig was saying, the rates keep going up. I think the council did the right thing on this.”

Council members Susan Hirschman and Kay LeFever joined Florian in voting against the fee hike. Clare Bangs and Allan Christiansen voted in favor of the measure.

Glenwood City Attorney Matt Woods has been asked to prepare and present a revised ordinance that keeps the franchise fee at 3 percent.