LCCTA Revisited, Mo Money, Mo Money

How do you develop loyalty in others? With a pet, you provide food, water, shelter and occasionally friendly attention. In people it's not that simple. Loyalty and friendship are an admirable attribute for anyone. But I have never seen such loyalty as has been displayed by the at least two members of the LCCTA (Loudon County Cable Television Authority) toward Loudon County Attorney, Harvey Sproul.

Let me first say, I was not in attendance at either meeting discussed here. I am making my observation on two recent news articles pertaining to the on going efforts of LCCTA board members, Earl Lauderdale and Lynn Mills, to preserve the LCCTA. As I stated in the last report, the LCCTA serves absolutely no function. They have no authority and no influence in any matters pertaining to cable TV. The only one who is really gaining any benefit from the existence of the board, is Mr. Sproul, who annually receives the majority of the LCCTA's budget. I once compared the matter of the LCCTA to the movie, Ground Hog Day, where Bill Murry found himself reliving the same day over and over. It's the same with this bunch. You have to just keep saying the same thing over and over.

In the News Herald article, Lauderdale said of Charter Communications "They owe $265,000 in unpaid (franchise) fees." He added "any additional funding would likely be drawn from this amount for the time being." This statement is absolutely wrong. If, and that is a big if, Charter pays the back franchise fees, that money will go to directly the three governments, not the LCCTA. Let's examine. Franchise fees are no more than a user tax, paid by cable customers, collected by cable companies then given the the local governments. Look at your cable bill. The franchise fee is right there. I think it is about $3.00 per month. Essentially, it's a hidden tax. Now, Mr. Lauderdale says Charter owes $265,000.00 in unpaid fees. Charter maintains, that if they are forced to pay those additional fees, they will simply pass the cost on to the cable subscribers. This means a higher cable bill for everyone.

Mr. Lauderdale, also said it seemed to him Charter "is coming around to our way of thinking." I couldn't help but chuckle when I read this statement. The LCCTA has been negotiating with the cable companies since 1999 for a new contract. The old contract expired in 2000. I'd say they are coming around to our way of thinking. Of course in those seven years, the county and cities have paid Mr. Sproul well over $150,000.00. It's obvious from the news article, Councilman Eddie Simpson could smell a rat. And he is exactly right. It will now be up to Lenoir City and Loudon to foot Mr. Sproul's bill from here on.

In the Knoxnews article, LCCTA chairman and Loudon interim manager, Lynn Mills, discussed the matter of transferring fiscal control of the LCCTA from the county to the city of Loudon. He stated it was something that would have "just have to be worked out." How long could that possibly take? The county pulled out back in June. Three or four months should be plenty of time to hand over all the necessary paperwork. Of course this is the same organization that has been negotiation a new cable contract for seven years. What is the hold up on the transfer? It could be that our new mayor superseded the commission and put the whole deal on hold while he lobbied to get the county back on the hook to foot the bills.

By pulling out of the LCCTA, the county did not forfeit $133,000.00. The $133,000.00 figure that keeps getting batted around is a mythical number. This is the amount of money the LCCTA alleges it has in reserves. That total is more like $30-$35 thousand dollars. All the county lost by pulling out of the LCCTA, is one third interest in five or six DVD players used to broadcast channel 3. The county did loose the obligation of throwing away $30-$40 thousand a year of tax payer's money.

I can not, in the deepest parts of my mind, understand why anybody would work so hard to throw away the tax payers money. What's the motive? I know there are some who feel the county has an obligation to honor the LCCTA contract, but I think the commission has shown by their actions, they feel they have a far greater obligation to honor their contract with the people, to be good stewards of their money.