The supervisors on May 13 voted to put a $56.71 million budget to a public hearing on June 13. While a proposed $944,000 cut to the school system was the topic of debate among supervisors that day, the budget also included another $22,000 cut for meeting recording services.
That amount, paid to Norton-based ARC-TV, is what the county budgeted for the current fiscal year for ARC to record board meetings and post them on the county’s Comcast cable public access channel 19.
County Administrator Mike Hatfield said the proposed cut would not affect the public access channel itself, since that is mandated under Comcast’s franchise agreement.
Hatfield said the proposed cut was requested by Supervisors Steve Bates and Bobby Cassell before the proposal was given to the board at its May 13 recessed meeting.
ARC-TV owner Ernie Benko said that he has recorded the meetings for later showings on channel 19 in Wise, Lee and Dickenson counties. In the Pound area, the recordings are shown on cable company Windstream’s channel 99 and in St. Paul on Shentel cable’s channel 16.
Benko said he also posts the meeting recordings on ARC’s YouTube channel.
“There are a lot of people who watch the meetings,” Benko said. “We’ve got over a million viewers.”
Benko said his contract with the county was on a monthly basis to record the meetings for public access viewing. He said he had no contract with Comcast, but that he worked with the company to post them on channel 19.
ARC has posted recordings of other county and localities’ events on Channel 19, including parades, Fourth of July celebrations, public concerts and other events, Benko said, but ARC had no contract to do that.
“(The county) said they would like programming to showcase the county,” Benko said. “I understand their point is the county doesn’t have enough money.”
Benko said the supervisors and county officials need to look at how they can use the public access channel to showcase tourism and other county features.
“They’ve got to put a better plan together,” Benko said.