Poor reception

County's plan to cut TV service not well liked

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About 25 residents voiced opposition Friday to a proposal by Moffat County commissioners to cut six subsidized television channels.

The $80,000 a year service is poised for the chopping block as commissioners grapple with cutting at least $500,000 to balance the 2004 budget.

The board called the workshop to weigh support for the service before issuing a final decision.

If it yanks the service, residents without cable will be unable to receive some channels such as the local station 27 in Craig that airs programming such as community events and government meetings. But rural residents outside of the cable network will be excluded from receiving the six channels.

According to Craig resident Charlotte Craft, the TV service is a quality-of-life issue for residents, who use it to keep current on local events within the county's spacious borders.

"I urge you to keep this system up," she told commissioners. "There are places within this county that are contingent upon this (service). If you need help paying for it, I'll help you write a grant."

Some residents said cutting the service sends out a negative message to area economic development efforts.

Others claimed the prospect of purchasing cable or satellite service even at less than $1 a day, would breach residents' personal budgets.

"Though I'm not on a fixed income and I could get cable or satellite, there are other people who aren't able to do that," said Roberta Hawks.

Jerry Thompson, owner of channel 27, said he hoped the board would further investigate its options and determine how many users depend on the county channels before reaching a decision.

"I guess one thing they could do is turn off the translators and list the commissioners' phone number and see how many calls they get," he said.

With the TV service cut, the Moffat County School District would lose its ability to broadcast, Thompson said.

Besides, he said, the county building that houses its translator has to be maintained due to other translators located there. A large chunk of the potential cost savings would be spent anyway on electricity costs to keep the unit cool in the summer and heating in the winter.

"There's a lot of electricity that goes to that building," he said. "They may only see about a $30,000 savings (without the TV service)."

As a result of the meeting, commissioners said they would investigate how much lessees pay to use the county building.

"The question is, 'What does that amount to?" said Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos. "It makes sense that if you're going to use our building you're going to have to pay."

Radio stations such as KFMU and KJOY reportedly transmit from the Sand Rocks site.

While the board offered the public no guarantees to keep or cut the service, a decision will surface again as budget details are hammered out.

"Take into consideration that if we don't make a decision here today, we're going to have to go back into the budget and cut $80,000 from somewhere else," said Commissioner Darryl Steele. "That may mean personnel cuts or wherever it's at."

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