Chatfield city officials listen as Mediacom representative Lee Grassley, right, explains why the cable provider no longer has WCCO, KSTP and WLAX on its Chatfield channel lineup. From left, are clerk Mary Peterson and councilors Robert Pederson and Ken Jacobson. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Chatfield city officials listen as Mediacom representative Lee Grassley, right, explains why the cable provider no longer has WCCO, KSTP and WLAX on its Chatfield channel lineup. From left, are clerk Mary Peterson and councilors Robert Pederson and Ken Jacobson. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Tuning in on Mediacom cable television recently has been more frustrating for Chatfield residents — especially since the company can no longer broadcast KSTP, WCCO or WLAX to Fillmore County due to permissions. The Chatfield City Council registered residents’ complaints with Mediacom representative Lee Grassley during the Monday evening, July 28, council meeting, even though the city does not have any bearing on which television and communications providers serve the city.
Grassley sat before the council, first explaining how and why Mediacom dropped KSTP, WCCO and WLAX in Chatfield’s service due to technological and legal requirements.
“We’ve been planning these changes for two and a half years,” he stated. “It’s given a lot of people a lot of heartburn…but you folks may be aware that you’re not where you should be technologically.”
Apparently, Mediacom has been realigning its channels in the process of transferring them from analog to digital. Grassley explained this means the channels that were close to being on the same bandwidth had to be grouped together, causing broadcast stations’ signals to no longer reach viewers who relied on antennas.
He also pointed out that the expanding cost of re-transmission fees, or the fees that cable providers pay to send a signal with a certain station on it, has grown.
“It came to the point that when it came time to pay KSTP, WCCO and WLAX, we couldn’t do it, and legally, we couldn’t do it…but when you ask why, it’s because the broadcasters have to sign an affidavit that they’re significantly viewed in an area,” he said. “WCCO is considered ‘significantly viewed’ in Dodge County, but not in Olmsted or Fillmore counties.”
Councilors and Mayor Russ Smith greatly questioned whether the changes in Mediacom’s services have improved anything at all, as the replacements for KSTP, WCCO and WLAX have been secondary channels such as shopping channels, according to councilors.
Smith said, “When I was a kid, cable came out, and it was supposed to be the end of all commercials on TV. A lot of people in town…if they could get TV from a different provider, they would. It’s not a reflection on you, but a decision they’d make. When we run this up the flagpole, I’d say a lot of people in Chatfield are not thrilled with Mediacom.”
Councilor Ken Jacobson shared his personal frustration with Mediacom – the carrier of Chatfield’s CCTV — saying, “I am on the CCTV board, and what I’ve noticed is that we pay more money, but the quality of TV is not as good as it was five years ago, like the type of channels we get.”
He pointed out that Grassley’s estimation that only 40 percent of Chatfield’s population subscribes to Mediacom includes 90 percent of that 40 percent who are unhappy with their television services. “Of that 40 percent, 90 percent of those…if we didn’t have CCTV, they’d be gone,” he added. “I’ve been on the council for 10 years and I think you’re coming up against a certain amount of anger toward your company. I think if we didn’t have CCTV, Mediacom would be kicked to the curb.”
Councilors Jacobson and Robert Pederson inquired of Grassley “who we should push” to have the regulations that govern television re-transmission changed.
Grassley replied that local legislators might be the starting place, but that “these lines were drawn in the 1950s through recommendations made by the Nielsen Ratings that were given to the Federal Communications Commission.”
The councilors agreed the issue of cable television is something they should address as a council.
Grassley concluded, “This is one of the more animated transitions.”
Cleaning ditches
The report from city maintenance foreman Tony Lammers included news on a request from a resident who asked if brush and debris could be removed from a city-maintained ditch.
Lammers noted he had contacted the Minnesota Conservation Corps to find out if some of its workers could come to town and clear ditches.
“A five-man crew could be here about 10 hours a day, and it’d be $1,050 a day for three or four days,” he explained.
Pederson commented, “It’s actually a win-win situation for the city.”
He and Jacobson made motions to allow Lammers to employ the Conservation Corps crew, and Lammers shared he was “Waiting to hear when they can get us on the schedule.”
Other business
The council approved a drainage study proposal for runoff near Margaret Street.
Jacobson updated the council on the public services committee’s discussion regarding weekend emergency technician scheduling. He noted the committee will have recommendations at upcoming meetings.
The consent agenda included approval of a parking request for the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ (VFW) parade entries to park on Second Street SW on Saturday, Aug. 9, granting a temporary liquor license to the VFW for Aug. 9 and 10 at Bernard Bus Garage, and paying city claims.
Smith and Councilor Mike Urban both reminded residents that the city is “gearing up for Western Days,” so they should be certain to make their homes look their best and also take part in many activities throughout the Western Days weekend.