Loudon County Cable Television Authority

In the 70's, when cable TV began to come to Loudon County, an organization was established by local governments. This board was known as the Loudon County Cable Television Authority (LCCTA). In the early years, this board was charged with many responsibilities dealing with cable TV companies including setting the cable rates. At that time, this board was a necessary part of local government. However, in 1996, the federal government deregulated the cable TV industry. The new federal laws regarding cable TV companies essentially removed nearly all regulatory authority from the local governments. The LCCTA should have been disbanded at that time. Unfortunately, the board was allowed to continue to operate even though they really had no purpose.

In 1999, the LCCTA began to negotiate with local cable companies for new contracts to provide cable service to the area. As of 2006, the LCCTA was still negotiating with local cable companies for new contracts. What's wrong with this picture?

After being elected to Commission in 2002, one of the first things I had to do was understand where the Counties money comes from and where it goes. This required a close study of all department expenditures. One of the departments that immediately jumped out at me was the LCCTA. Apparently this board had transformed into the Harvey Sproul free money account.

For several years now, the board's budget has been $51,050.00. A pretty hefty budget for a board that has no purpose. As I worked through all of the bills and expenditures, it became obvious the only one benefiting from this board was County attorney Harvey Sproul. Of the entire budget, Harvey was annually taking home the largest percentage of the money.

The LCCTA is comprised of three members. One from Loudon, one from Lenoir City and one from the County. For some unknown reason, the board uses Attorney Sproul as the board secretary at a rate of $135.00 per hour. That makes for one expensive secretary. Each year Mr. Sproul was being paid the largest portion of the LCCTA's budget, 60%, 70%, nearly %80. In just the last four years, this has totaled well over $100,000.00 for Mr. Sproul. Click here to see some of Harvey Sproul's bills to the LCCTA.  (PDF) You decide if this is a proper use of tax money.

After discovering this outrageous waste of tax money, I took the information to the Commission in an attempt to put a stop to it. Once the entire commission became involved in the matter the fog machine was turned on high. That is to say, Sproul and company went into overdrive to protect this cash cow. Mr. Sproul was emphatic that the County was obligated to maintain the funding under a contract he, Mr. Sproul, had written up back in the 90's. To make a long story shorter, after three years of continually providing the Commission with all the financial waste within the LCCTA, the Commission finally took action and withdrew from participation in the LCCTA, saving the County tax payers $30-$40 thousand per year.

The Commission voted unanimously in June 06:

Effective July 1, 2006, Loudon County:

--withdraw from the LCCTA agreement;
--cease all funding of the LCCTA; and,
--cease as acting fiscal agent for the LCCTA.

Funding to the Community Channel will continue, in the same manner as any other non-governmental or quasi-governmental organization, via the annual county budgeting process.

Further, that the County Purchasing Director be assigned responsibility for all cable franchise contract negotiations pertaining to cable services in the county proper -- outside the jurisdictions of the two remaining parties to the Interlocal Agreement. And that if the Director determines that legal assistance is needed, he is hereby authorized to hire outside council to assist with those negotiations -- the intent being to have a contract finalized within sixty days if at all possible.

At last, definitive action to stop this ridiculous waste of money. End of story? No way.

Even before our new Mayor Arp had taken office, he addressed the Commission and scolded us for withdrawing from the LCCTA. He even told us they, the LCCTA, might let us come back in. My question is, why would we want back in? Mayor Arp has even directed the purchasing director to stop working on the cable contract, as the Commission had voted for him to do in June. Apparently, Mayor Arp has decided he out ranks the entire commission. It looks like the new mayor is less concerned about wasting your money and more concerned about taking care of his chums.

No doubt, the Commission is moving to a show down with the new mayor as to who makes the decisions in the County.


Footnote: I read in Thursday's News Herald that a Loudon City Council member stated "I hope the County comes back." (As a member of the LCCTA) I bet they do. They don't to pay the bills by themselves.