After a seven-year dispute between the Town of New Paltz and Time Warner Cable, the company has agreed to return the unused line-extension funds once a new 10-year contract is approved by the State Public Service Commission.
The Town Public Access Advisory Committee and Time Warner Cable created a written agreement in December 2011 under then Town Supervisor Toni Hokanson that said the money would be returned to the town in a fund for educational public access, but the company went back on their word, Committee Chair Don Kerr said.
A year later, David Lent, a member of the Public Access Advisory Committee said the committee and current Town Supervisor Susan Zimet informed Time Warner that they would seek legal action against the company.
“In 2012, Susan Zimet and I turned up the heat,” Kerr said. “Zimet phoned the State Attorney General’s office and went over the head of our contact at Time Warner Cable.”
Lent, who served as town supervisor in 1995 when the original 10-year contract was first initialized, said during the last year, numerous issues the town had with the contract, such as franchise fees and language of the contract, had been resolved. However when Time Warner decided they would only return the unused line-extension funds if they had control over its use the Public Access Advisory Committee and Town Board ceased the then six-year overdue contract renewal.
“The committee and Town Board at the time said, ‘No way’,” Lent said. “‘We aren’t going to let you sit on the money and tell the town how to spend it.’”
Lent said Zimet received a letter two weeks ago from Time Warner’s attorney stating that the company wanted to settle the disagreement, return the money and set up a new 10-year contract.
“The Town Board will move ahead and sign the contract,” he said. “We still have to identify a third contract and channel.”
Kerr said the Town has proposed to set aside $22,000 of the $208,000 for public access equipment, and the rest will go into the general fund Zimet and the Town Council will decide how to use.
Under the old franchise agreement, however, Time Warner Cable would provide the town and village with $30,000 worth of equipment to support public access, but that money would be charged back to Time Warner Cable customers in the bills over time, Kerr said. The Town has agreed to take any equipment money from the $250,000, he said.
Although Kerr is excited this issue has been put behind the town and they can begin a new contract with the company, he said it was ultimately all about a large corporation trying to avoid “a large payout negotiated by their predecessors.”
Zimet is expected to sign the contract within the next few weeks after it is reviewed and approved by the state, Lent said.
“We believe everything is settled, but [it isn’t confirmed] until you read the documents, get a signature on it…it takes some time,” he said.