The Elizabethtown Borough Council discussed the possibility of ending Comcast’s monopoly on cable TV service when agreeing to join other local governments in jointly negotiating franchise renewal agreements, although it turns out the existing agreement expressly allows other cable companies to operate in the borough.
Borough Manager Roni Ryan told councilors at their meeting on Thursday, May 16, that the borough’s current 15-year agreement ends in 2020. By joining up with other municipalities for negotiations, the borough can get a 35% discount on negotiation fees and get an audit thrown in free of charge to make sure the borough is getting all the franchise fees it is owed.
Councilor Bill Troutman noted that Comcast is the only cable TV provider currently and asked if that could change. Ryan said during the meeting that the current agreement allows Comcast to use the borough’s right of way, but she was not sure if the agreement excluded other cable providers from using it as well. Council President J. Marc Hershey said the borough should see about making sure any renewal is not an exclusive agreement before all members present voted to engage the services of Cohen Law Group for negotiations. (Council Vice President J. Neil Ketchum was absent.) At the request of the Advocate, Ryan provided a copy of the agreement on Monday, May 20; it expressly says that it is not exclusive and that the borough may make similar agreements with other cable companies.
West Donegal Township supervisors had also agreed to engage the services of Cohen Law Group for negotiations with Comcast at their meeting on Monday, May 13, but the subject of whether the agreement with Comcast would exclude other cable companies did not come up.
All Elizabethtown Borough councilors present also voted to approve an ordinance to extend a tax abatement for five years on 206 S. Market St. (the former Roth’s Furniture store), 28 S. Market St. (the home of Funk Brewing), as well as 18 N. Market St., which is the historic Moose lodge building that the lodge has put up for sale. Under the program, if renovation or construction increases the value of the property, borough property tax on the increased value would be phased in over a 10-year period. The existing abatement is for county and school district taxes as well as borough taxes, but the school district and county would need to approve the extension for it to apply to those taxes as well.
Ryan said the school board and the county would be given a copy of the ordinance and that borough staff had discussed having the school district and county extending the abatements as well.
“There didn’t appear to be any opposition in the conversations,” Ryan said, but the final decisions would be up to the county commissioners and the school board.
The tax abatement program is designed to encourage investment in real estate improvements.