NEGAUNEE - The Negaunee City Council had a discussion about the city cable system leaving two council members speaking out against it at Thursday's meeting.
A discussion about the cable system was put on the agenda after the budget work session Oct. 4 because some council members said it needs to be sold or shut down and others said it needs to continue because it's serving its purpose for the community, City Manager Jeff Thornton said.
"There have been discussions in subsidizing the cable system but I don't think that will be necessary this year or next year," Thornton said. "What we did do at the budget work session is raise cable rates."
The cable-internet fund is in the black for 2012 and projected to be in the black for 2013, but money was taken from the electric fund in 2011 to balance the cable system budget. The cable rates are expected to increase by $1.50. The reason for the increase is because local channels are charging the city to broadcast their signal on the city's cable system, Thornton said.
"When we get a rate increase we need to pass it on," Thornton said. "We can not keep absorbing these costs."
The city cable system was created in 1985 to create an option for Negaunee city residents to get television from a non-corporate entity and serves about 650 customers.
Council member Michael VanStraten said he believed the city cable system should not continue to exist because the equipment is outdated and it's not self-sustaining.
"We either sell it or we continue to operate it and it isn't sliding in a very positive direction as far as I'm concerned," VanStraten said. "It may look pretty up front but behind the scenes it's not because everything we have is wearing out. So I can not support funding to keep the cable system going at this point."
Council member Diana Menhennick said she believes the cable system could still be an asset to the city but agreed with VanStraten that the city needs to think about doing something to improve it.
"I think the cable TV should remain a separate item in the budget because I think it will be for better transparency, accountability and better monitoring," Menhennick said. "I think what this council needs to do is develop a strategic plan for the future of this cable system."
council members Richard Wills and Dawn Schuhknecht said they believe the cable system needs to be monitored and reviewed regularly.
After the discussion about the city cable system, a motion was made to continue with the cable system but to monitor it carefully. The motion was approved 4 to 2 with council members Keith LaCosse and VanStraten voting against it. Council member Mark Rodgers was absent.
Also at the meeting, no one spoke at a public hearing for the proposed 2013 budget. The budget, which is scheduled to be voted on at the council's November meeting, can be viewed by the public at the city manager's office and the Negaunee Public Library.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.