Monday, May 11, 2009

Airing of BOE Meetings Promised

School board member Patricia Barksdale delivered a DVD of a Board of Education meeting to Councilwoman Linda Carter Monday as officials promised Channel 74 viewings by the end of May.

It was the fifth or sixth DVD offered, Barksdale said, as discussions on the issue have gone on for months. Terms of a franchise with Comcast of the Plainfields call for two local origination channels, one for city government and one for education, but so far only the governmental channel is up.

Barksdale is the school board's liaison to the council and Carter and Councilwoman Annie McWilliams are the governing body's liaisons to the school board. The issue of airing school board meetings intensified as the women took charge this year, but city officials claimed a lack of manpower to make the airings happen. The issue hinged on renewing a contract with media consultant Parris Z. Moore of Blok Box Pictures LLC. Moore previously fulfilled the function in 2007-08 and then qualified to do the same job in 2008-09. But apparently no contract was offered.

Blok Box racked up a tab of $23,400 for work at the request of city personnel without a contract in the 2009 fiscal year starting July 1 2008, and is apparently owed more for other work. The contract approved Monday, authorizing up to $50,000 for Channel 74 work, is retroactive to July 1, 2008, even though Blok Box only qualified in mid-August of 2008.

City Administrator Marc Dashield said in no way would the total for work done exceed $50,000. However, if the work resumes at the end of May, the city will need to engage the company or one similar to proceed through 2009, as the fiscal budget year ends June 30.

Although council members have questioned why the station can't just put up a DVD, Dashield has insisted it is not that simple.

By the end of the month, McWilliams and Carter said, they want both airings of the school board meetings and a schedule for Channel 74.

Meanwhile, City Council President Rashid Burney has questioned how Channel 74 programming is formulated. Currently, it is a mix of public service announcements, local programming and outside shows such as "Democracy Now." Burney is seeking more information on the decision-making process.

The city has a Cable Television Advisory Board that has oversight of Channel 74 as one of its responsibilities. It is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall Library.

--Bernice Paglia


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