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Agawam City Council discuss Cable Acess TV manager position

Date: 3/20/2019

AGAWAM – On March 4, the Agawam City Council hosted a meeting and discussed an ordinance that would create a Cable Access TV Manager position for the town of Agawam.

The ordinance was referred to the Legislative Committee previously. The Legislative Committee met to discuss the ordinance prior to the City Council meeting. Present at the meeting were Chair Robert Macgovern, Vice Chair George Bitzas, Councilor Robert Rossi, Councilor Cecilia Calabrese, Councilor Rosemary Sandlin, Councilor Paul Cavallo, Councilor Dino Mercadante, Councilor Joseph Mineo, Agawam Mayor William Sapelli and Agawam citizen Will Clark.

Councilor Macgovern reported on behalf of the committee, stating, “We discussed at great length and Mayor Sapelli spoke in support of this ordinance, as did Jeff Hebert. The person in this position will report directly to Jeff Hebert. Councilor George Bitzas questioned using volunteers instead and Councilor Mercadante questioned the amount of salary. The meeting was quite lengthy. The mayor explained how the funding would come out of the cable fund and not be affected by taxpayers in general. Will Clark spoke about how he believed the cable money was intended to be spent and asked if this position could be sustained for a long time with the cable funds.”

Macgovern continued, “One other issue that I brought up is that I hope this position will also be supported by the schools, which I was told by the mayor that it would be, so that whoever is in this position can also help the students and possibly bring them along as aides and develop more programs on our cable television.”

The ordinance was voted four in favor with one abstention by Councilor Bitzas during the Legislative Committee meeting.

According to Councilor Calabrese, Agawam currently has approximately 10,000 cable television subscribers and the average franchise fee per month is about $1.09, or $13.08 per year.

Councilor Calabrese shared that she was in support of the position. “I think that this position is an excellent use of that money. Talk about getting bang for your buck. I think this is one of those positions, one of those rare opportunities where you kind of almost have a public/private partnership to create a position to benefit the citizens of Agawam. If you go on to our cable access channels, the programming is almost absent if not lacking and I think if we have someone in this position, not only can they help us with programming, hopefully maybe they can do some things with live streaming and things like that and bring in some students so they can learn hands-on skills,” Calabrese said.

Councilor Mercadante said he also supports the position, but has concerns with it financially. “I’m also in favor of this, but I’m looking at it also from a financial aspect. As long as the position is covered entirely, not just salary, but benefits also through the cable access fees, I was okay with the situation. Also that the position did not overrun the fund that was available to pay for it. I was assured that that’s not what’s going to happen here and that the benefits will be involved in this also. The town’s taxpayers, other than the franchise fee they pay to the cable company, will not be hit with an additional fee,” Mercadante said.

Mercadante shared that he would also like to involve Agawam students with the position. “The town can also be involved with mentoring in regards to the cable access channel. We can draw from our own high school kids that want to further their education when they get to college with broadcasting would be a great idea. We can lead the way in mentoring our youth with regards to the school,” Mercadante said.

Councilor Cavallo compared the cable access channel in other communities with that of Agawam. “We should have full access of all the other committees that operate the town of Agawam. I remember when I owned my place on the Cape, I’d flip to their cable channel for the community. They’d have the Planning Board meeting on, Conservation meeting on, you name it. Every board that they had, even the school board meeting, everything was on. I hope that somehow, the person who gets this position can incorporate that,” Cavallo said.

Councilor Bitzas said that he was in favor of a part-time Cable Access TV Manager position. “I was in favor for a part-time position with a little less money. After talking to the mayor, he said we need a full-time position and the IT Director also emphasized we need a full-time position. I respectfully disagree, but I’ll go along with that. Let’s try and see. I believe it does not need to a full-time position, but let’s give it a try,” Bitzas said.

Bitzas continued, “I hope they cover all of the committees. I hope they cover the schools. I hope they don’t end up being biased.”

The proposed salary of the position was also a topic of discussion during the meeting. Sapelli is proposing a salary range of $44,992 to $56,562.

Bitzas said he believed the starting salary should be closer to the under $49,000 range. “For a first-time position to open, I think it’s very, very fair. We have positions we hire around $30,000. We have other people we hire less than $40,000. I don’t expect anybody to agree with me. But I don’t see it myself to create a new position for $49,000, plus $15,000 more,” Bitzas said.

Councilor Mineo said he disagreed and he believed the salary should be adjusted to the qualifications of the person hired. “I respectably disagree. I think what the mayor needs to do is to look at what type of person, or whoever is applying for this position and in my own opinion, I hope since all these years that we haven’t had this position, we’ve had a lot of issues. Here’s an opportunity for our community to benefit from this whole thing. I’m hoping that we’re going to hire somebody that’s very qualified and somebody that’s really going to put this program together and put it together well,” Mineo said.

Mineo continued, “If you’re going to want to get somebody that’s going to be able to do this job, I think you’re going to have to pay. If not, then I don’t think you’re going to have a very good program.”

Councilor Cavallo also addressed the salary of the position. “This is very common, even in private industry when you hire for a job. There’s always a range. You may be applying for jobs in accounting. The range may be from $70,000 to $95,000. That personnel or the head of that department, they get together and they have a right based on the person’s ability and qualifications not to start them there. They can start them on the high end or the middle, but this is a very, very common practice in all phases of employment,” Cavallo said.

Councilor Rossi shared that he was in favor of the position. “I have to give the mayor credit in this area here that him and his team put this thing together and I think it was nicely done. We have to remember that the money that’s coming out of this is strictly money that’s put into an enterprise fund and funded strictly by the Cable Commission, so it’s not tax dollars that we’re talking about over here. In terms of the dollar amount that needs to be used for hiring somebody, it has to be up to the mayor’s discretion. It has to be in his judgment in the end the amount of money that he’s going to pay somebody with the qualifications for the job that he’s looking for. We can’t restrict him in that. It has to be his call. I don’t think we should sit here and micromanage that,” Rossi said.

Rossi continued, “This is a very worthwhile project desperately needed by this community. If we ever intend to get going forward we need to have something like this. The public is going to be more aware of what’s going on, we’ll have more transparency, we’re going to be getting our access TVs revamped so we’re going to have something other than the scroll just randomly and aimlessly moving around on the screen. All of those things are going to change in a good, positive direction.”

Councilor Macgovern said he believed the position will overall be a benefit for the town of Agawam. “I really feel that this is a plus for the town. A lot of other cities have it. As far as going into the schools, I think that’s vital. I think that the mayor has understood this. It’s going to bring us into line with a lot of other communities. There’s so much programming that can be done. There is a portable camera that can travel around and get other events that are going on such as the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the committees, the coronations, things like this. It’s a wonderful asset to the town to bring people in to see what’s going on. I’m very much in favor of this,” Macgovern said.

The committee voted in favor of the first reading unanimously.

To watch the March 4 City Council meeting, visit