Robotic camera in the closet?

SAY CHEESE — This robotic camera is installed in the big meeting room at the Naples town office. The Town of Casco will be considering the purchase of this equipment as part of renewing its cable TV franchise fee agreement. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — There could be a robotic camera tucked away in the closet.

And, that’s a good thing.

The Town of Casco is considering going through the process of updating its TV Franchise Agreement, which expired in 2012, more than five years ago.

Currently, the cable company pays the town for the use of its utility poles. However, at 2½ %, that amount is lower than it could be, according to Lake Region Television (LRTV) Station Manager Chris Richard.

The franchise-fee payment would increase if the town renewed their agreement, he said. The benefits of a contract renewal would include a 5% pay off, money that could be collected quarterly rather than annually by the town.

Another thing that could be included in the package is robotic camera equipment. It is small enough to be stored in the closet at the Casco Community Center, Richard said.

The agreement-renewal process involves using a consultant and a lawyer; and that cost would be about $2,400 for the town, he said.

Richard spoke during the Casco Board of Selectmen meeting on April 24, prompting the board to get the ball rolling on forming a committee to renew the franchise fee agreement.

In order to speak before the board, Richard stepped from behind the camera to the podium in front of the camera.

“I would suggest a couple robotic cameras. Instead of mike clips, the camera screws on. It’s quiet. They don’t make any noise. There is no zoom in and out. It is just real smooth,” he said.

“It would stay here. It is just for Casco. It is something that could fit right in the closet,” he said. “The other thing is that I can put graphics on it. If [the board has] a split executive section, we put a plaque on the screen that says it is coming up momentarily.”

Another upgrade the town could take advantage of is digital video, which greatly improves the quality of the video.

“It looks really good. Naples is really happy with it,” he said.

He encouraged the selectmen to view video footage of a Naples’ meeting to get a feel for the video quality. Briefly, the town manager and board members jokingly asked if the digital video would improve their appearance.

Then, Richard moved on to talking about the process of renewing the contract with the cable television company.

The town would form a committee. He volunteered to be on the committee. He recommended getting someone from the town’s library to also volunteer on the committee.

“The one I did in Sebago. We started in August and ended in October. There were only four meetings that were about one hour long each,” he said. “You might be able to do it in three meetings.”

“What would take place is: the first meeting is an introduction to assessing the town’s needs, to give the consultant the information. He handles all the paperwork,” Richard said.  “Also, there is a one-time lawyer fee.”

The entire cost is approximately $2,000, he said, continuing that with the legal fee added in, the total cost would be $2,400.

Once the contract is finalized, it would be in place for 10 to 15 years, he said.

“There is a benefit to renewing it — you get more money and you get it quarterly,” Richard told the board.

Additionally, having a cable TV franchise fee contract in place would qualify the town for capital grants to improve its recording equipment, he said.

According to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton, there were several reasons that the town has not renewed the contract since 2012.

The contract “is still in place, even though it expires, state law provides that the conditions of the contract continue to exist,” he said.

“At that time, in 2012, it was questionable whether reviewing it would be beneficial. We didn’t have a lot of staff time available to do it. So, it was matter of resources and a question of whether it would be beneficial to the town,” Morton said. “It didn’t come to the top of the pile.”

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