Comcast rep fields questions
regarding public access television
Libbie Stehn of Comcast
stood before the council Monday evening to announce price changes
that the company will soon be implementing on area cable rates.
However, when she was finished speaking, the conversation quickly
turned to public access and educational channel provisions in the
city's contract with Comcast.
Mayor Keith Snyder said that the franchise agreement with Comcast
included airing the city council meetings. He said that people have
asked him how they could acquire a copy of a tape of the meetings:
Would it be by contacting Comcast, or someone else? Stehn said that
the meetings are a live stream, with nothing recorded, so there are
no copies available.
Snyder said that the franchise agreement was originally with
Continental Cable and that it included one channel shared by local
origination, government access, educational and public access. Upon
completion of the cable system rebuild, that company was then to
provide one additional channel solely for the provision of public,
educational and government access. He said that as he understood it,
CITV5 is the local origination channel.
Stehn said that currently the shared channel is Channel 5 and
that anyone who wants to can use that channel. She noted that local
churches make their own DVDs and bring them to Channel 5 for airing.
The mayor asked about the second channel mentioned, and Stehn
said that it had never been requested. She went on to say that once
requested, Comcast would have to look at the cost of establishing
the channel, but she did not specify who would bear the burden of
Alderwoman Melody Anderson asked about the airing of the council
meetings. She said that she has had many requests that the city
televise not only their Monday night voting sessions, but their
Tuesday night committee-of-the-whole meetings as well. She asked if
both sessions could be televised. Stehn replied that the company
could certainly look into it.
In regard to the rate increases Stehn originally discussed, the
non-digital "Expanded Basic" package is the only one that will be
increasing. Currently consumers are paying $51 a month for that
package. The fee will increase to $52.99 per month, effective with
the November billing.
Stehn noted that the new price will be exactly the same as the
starter digital package that the company now offers. She also noted
that the digital package includes several more stations than the
She said Comcast is working to improve their customer service and
is offering account credits when service is not up to par. She
further stated that if a technician cannot solve a customer issue in
one visit, Comcast will add complimentary premium services or offer
a $20 credit to an account.
Additionally, she said that if technicians do not arrive at the
home within the appointment window the customer is promised, there
will be a $25 credit.
Stehn said that Comcast is also working to add more digital
channels and commented on a number of sports channels that the
company will be adding in the near future.
Alderwoman Kathy Horn asked about making the switch to digital,
wondering what the cost of the digital receiver box is going to be.
Stehn said there was no cost for that box.
Alderman Nathan Turner expressed his displeasure on the rate
"You mentioned that your costs are constantly increasing," he
said. "At the same time we are seeing a period of major recession.
There is negative inflation throughout the entire economy;
electricity prices and fuel prices have plummeted. Senior citizens
will not get an increase in pay this year. We're in a situation with
a natural monopoly that is cable, and you're still increasing your
He went on to say: "The public is typically very unhappy when the
cable rates go up. I'm just very surprised that this year especially
the cable company would come and ask people to pay more money for
the same cable service."
Stehn replied, "I definitely understand your concern." She went
on to say that Comcast's costs have continued to rise. She also
noted that Comcast is happy to say they still have 10 employees in
the Lincoln area. The company has not had to lay off workers, and in
fact they have added staff in the area of front-line customer
Development partnership update
Joel Smiley, director of the Lincoln and Logan County Development
Partnership, presented an update on the partnership's recent
activities. He said he had five topics he wished to discuss.
1. Economic master plan
The partnership has been awarded a
$50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Smiley said
that there were only two awards given in the state of Illinois.
The funding will be used to develop an
economic master plan. Smiley said that the plan will use the
comprehensive plan for Lincoln and Logan County and basically draw a
road map to accomplishing the goals established there.
To design the master plan effectively,
Smiley needs to hire a consultant. He noted that with this grant,
the partnership would be able to hire a "top-notch consulting firm."
2. Business incubator
Smiley said that there will be an
official launching of the partnership's business incubator at 11
a.m. on Oct. 29. The exact location of the launch will be announced
in the near future.
Smiley said that originally there had
been a plan for one centralized location, but over time that evolved
into a variety of locations throughout the county.
The incubator is a three-year program
that will assist new businesses in finding space at a reduced cost.
He said that in the first year, property leases will be discounted
by 50 percent; the second year will include a 30 percent discount;
and in the third year, the business will receive a 10 percent
discount in their lease.
Smiley said that he has recently
acquired space from MII, and so the total space available now is
around 100,000 square feet.
3. SCORE to launch next week
Devonshire Realty is going to be the
location for the partnership's SCORE program. Smiley said that there
will be a ribbon-cutting next Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
The SCORE office will house volunteers
who can work with new startup businesses in establishing and
understanding their business plans and budgets.
The goal of the program is to create
100 new jobs per year.
4. Helitech agreement nearing completion
Smiley said that the deal with Helitech
to come to the county would be announced within three to four weeks.
Alderwoman Marty Neitzel asked what had
happened to Lincoln's involvement. She said her real question was, "What is wrong
with the city of Lincoln?"
When Smiley brought the Helitech
project to the council in January, the plan focused on a piece of
property near Sysco where the city was the developer.
Smiley had promised 25 to 50 midrange
income jobs at the new facility and had asked that the city, as the
developers, forgo a sewer tap fee amounting to $5,357.
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At this week's meeting, he answered Neitzel by saying that the
original plan had included a guarantee of a certain number of jobs
brought to the community and that Helitech has since reduced the
number of employees they plan to have at the facility.
The partnership board decided that if
they were going to reduce the number of jobs, there were other areas
where the company could locate in the county, considering that the
property in the city was very valuable.
Smiley said that Helitech had
originally approached the county about the relocation almost four
years ago and that Lincoln came into it only after the partnership
Neitzel said she wanted Smiley to keep
in mind that Lincoln is a part of Logan County.
Smiley said that he absolutely does
keep that in mind and noted that the bulk of the business incubator
will be located in Lincoln. He reminded the council that R.P. Lumber
has come to town as well as Goody's under new ownership.
5. Business retention visits
Smiley said that business retention in
the county is very important. To that end the partnership is doing
site visits to existing businesses. The first round of what will be annual
visits began in September and will wrap up in November.
He said that
during these visits he has heard two very exciting ideas for the
future that have come from the employers. He said he was not prepared to
discuss this any further at this time.
Smiley later noted that one of the
ideas includes a very large manufacturer that is looking for new
September treasurer's report
Les Plotner, city treasurer, offered up his report for the month
ending Sept. 30.
He noted that the accounting system at City Hall is still a work
in progress and that as it evolves into what it should be, he will
become more confident in the reports he is offering to the council.
He explained that while some of the expenditure reports he is
working with now seem to be a little askew, there are some things
that he is very certain about.
Namely, that is the drastic reduction in revenues coming into the
city. Plotner said that for the year to date, the revenue from taxes
is down more than $256,000. He noted that the only tax that is not
seeing a reduction is the telecommunications tax, which is actually
up by about $13,000.
He once again warned committee chairs to review their monthly
reports very carefully. He said that if expenditures are hitting
60-70 percent of the budgeted amount while the year is only 40
percent complete, they need to investigate it and slow down the
spending in their departments.
Snyder asked if Plotner had any projections on just how much
revenue will be lost this year. Plotner replied that he is studying
that and will have better information to answer that question in the
On the good news side, Plotner announced that the estate of
Russell and Helen Allen had willed $5,000 each to the city fire
department and city police.
He said that there are no strings attached to the money for the
police, and he believes they may choose to hold the funds until next
year, when the department will need to purchase new vests for their
In regard to the fire department, there is a thought that the
money has to be added to the firemen's pension funds. City attorney
Bill Bates and fire Chief Kent Hulett are working together to find
out if that is indeed the case.
Plotner also said he had learned that there is a possibility
that the city can reissue its general operating bond before the end
of the year 2010.
He said that this December the city would levy the taxes to pay
off the $170,000 balance on the bond. The payment would then be made
in December 2010.
However, he said that according to a source at Midwest Services,
the city does not have to wait until the bond is actually paid off
to reissue it.
Plotner said he would continue to investigate this and see what
He advised the council that this year's six-month report will be
late. He said that this is when he should be giving the report and
filing a copy of it with the county. However, the report cannot be
completed until the annual audit is completed, and to date that has
City Clerk Denise Martinek advised Plotner that the draft of the
audit had actually arrived in her office Monday afternoon.
The draft is not the official document of the auditor. The draft
must be reviewed and approved before the official document can be
printed. The six-month report has to be based on the official audit.
Update on fast track to demolition
Bates said that as of last Friday, two properties, at 417 N.
Madison and 718 S. College, have been posted with the intent to
Letters to interested parties of the properties have been sent
via certified mail.
The public notice, which must go in a local news publication, has
been sent out. The notice must be published for three consecutive
days. The countdown to demolition commences at the end of the
Once the countdown begins, the city will be on track to demolish
the properties in 30 days, unless the decision is contested by an
interested party of the property.
Bid for patching awarded
At the Tuesday night committee-of-the-whole meeting last week,
bids were opened for patching to be completed on McLean Street at
its intersections with Delavan and Pekin streets.
Illinois Valley Paving Co. bid $66,780.41, and Professional
Paving Maintenance Services bid $36,678.85.
The bid was awarded to Professional Paving by a unanimous vote of
Sale of excess property
Bids were also opened last week for the sale of a 1999 Ford
D & C Sales offered $577 for the vehicle, and a bid of $525 was
entered by Mike Sutton.
By unanimous vote the truck will go to D & C Sales.
Consent agenda items approved
Oct. 26 was named Harvest of Talents Day by resolution.
The city's official trick-or-treat date and hours will be Oct. 31
from 5 to 8 p.m.
Street closures were approved for the Lincoln Christmas Parade on
Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.
[By NILA SMITH]
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