To the Voters of East Longmeadow:
Article 5 of the Warrant for the October 23rd Special Town Meeting proposes to bring the salary of the East Longmeadow Cable Access Television (ELCAT) Director from $29,500.00 annually to $35,000.00. Gerri Gagnon, the ELCAT Director, was hired at her current rate in 2004. The hard work and dedication she gives does to bring local programming to the town, whether a Board of Selectmen meeting, Spartanum, or the Independence Day parade, more than justifies this increase. The wording of Article 5 may be a little confusing. It had to be done in this way to satisfy the MA DOR. Again, the wording proposes that an increase in salary of $5,500.00 be considered by the voters.
An important point for voters to understand is that the proposed increase for the ELCAT Director would be funded entirely from the monies the Town has received as part of the current franchise contract with Charter Communications. By contract, which began in 1997, the Town has received payments from Charter and its predecessors via nominal payments made by cable subscribers on their monthly bills. These funds are to be used to support the creation and presentation of local access programming. While the pass-through cost to the subscriber is small, the positive effect to the community via local access coverage of town meetings and other important events is large.
The accrued funds to date add up to over $120,000.00 and we are contractually obligated to spend this on capital equipment and expenses for ELCAT.
Article 5 could also offer the opportunity for the Town to enhance the equipment and content provided by ELCAT. There have been requests made by citizens to purchase, through ELCAT funds, various pieces of video and computer equipment. This equipment, which would be under the control of the ELCAT Director, could be used by town groups to tape athletic contests, community events, or create original programming of a citizen's design. It could also provide the equipment necessary to tape and broadcast the meetings of the Planning Board, Board of Public Works, Appropriations Committee and the like.
The equipment is one side of the equation. Citizen participation is the other. Those that would use the equipment would need to undergo training, which would be provided by the ELCAT Director at no charge. Once trained, the equipment could be used by those individuals to provide content of community interest; i.e. athletic contests, community events, board meeting coverage; to the betterment of the Town. This would be in line with the mandate of the voters that passed Article 4 during the Special Town Meeting in August last year demanding better communication from the Town. More equipment and volunteers will help reach this goal.
I will propose an amendment from the floor at the Special Town Meeting that will ask for an additional allocation of funds for the purchase of capital equipment, as requested by the citizens, and through the capital requests recommended by the ELCAT Director. I believe that this additional capital allocation-one that does not involve taxpayer funding-is an important step to significantly enhancing the value of local programming for our citizenry. I ask that you consider supporting this measure. Please attend the Special Town Meeting on Monday, October 23, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. in the High School auditorium.
James D. Driscoll
Chairman, Board of Selectmen