NEWTOWN AREA TELECOMMUNICATIONS ADVISORY COMMITTEE

NEWTOWN BOROUGH FIRE HALL

14 LIBERTY STREET

NEWTOWN, PA

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2006


MINUTES OF FEBRUARY 1, 2006: James Bowe moved to approve the minutes of February 1, 2006.  The motion was seconded by Harry Stevens and passed unanimously.


Members Present: James Manahan, Chairman; James Bowe, Member; Barbara Jankowski, Member; Robert Hafner, Member; Harry Stevens, Member and Jerry Schenkman, Liaison Representing Newtown Township; Patrick Foster, Vice-Chairman and Don Smith, Liaison Representing Newtown Borough.

Also present were Brian Jeter, Director of Government & Community Relations representing Comcast Cable Communications, Inc.; Scott Harp, Township resident; Anne Donovan-Heiser, Township resident; Richard Fry, Warrington resident.

CALL TO ORDER:

Chairman James Manahan called the meeting to order at 7:32 P.M.

MINUTES OF DECEMBER 7, 2005:

James Bowe moved to approve the minutes of December 7, 2005. The motion was seconded by Barbara Jankowski and passed unanimously with two members abstaining.

MINUTES OF JANUARY 4, 2006:

James Bowe moved to approve the minutes of January 4, 2006. The motion was seconded by Patrick Foster and passed unanimously with two members abstaining.

ORGANIZATION OF COMMITTEE:

The motion was seconded by Patrick Foster and passed unanimously.

The motion was seconded by James Bowe and passed unanimously.

NEW BUSINESS:

OLD BUSINESS:

Commonwealth Drive Cleanup

The Committee members discussed the cleanup of the property located at 192 Commonwealth Drive.

The homeowner Anne Donovan-Heiser updated the Committee members with regards to her Verizon experience. She explained to the Committee members that in June of 2005 while Verizon was working on her property they severed the return oil line for her oil tank. She was unaware of the problem until October 24, 2005, when her son Tom Donovan turned on the heat. She discussed a meeting at the property that took place on October 26, 2006 and advised that Township and Verizon representatives where there. She advised the Committee members on discussions with Gary Allen, Environmental Consultant for Pro Guard (tank insurance company). She advised on her experience with the Verizon subcontractor X-Cell. She advised the members that she has heard of another property located in Newtown Crossing with the same problem, but is unsure of the location. She advised that after the October 26th meeting she had had no contact with Verizon until after she contacted the Committee via email on November 11, 2005. She advised that her property had fourteen (14) tons of contaminated soil and that at this time her out of pocket expenses total $3,000.00. She advised that her insurance company has not notified her as to whether or not they will go after Verizon for any expenses. She advised that Verizon claims no responsibility for the damaged oil return line and that she has contacted an attorney and plans to take Verizon to Small Claims Court.

The Committee members discussed what they could do to help Anne Donovan-Heiser. James Manahan advised that he would follow up with John Boyle and Verizon.

James Bowe advised that the same type of incident happened when Comcast was installing underground equipment and that Comcast took responsibility and paid all the expenses incurred.

Jerry Schenkman requested that Anne Donovan-Heiser provided the Committee with any correspondence she has that pertains to the incident. He also suggested that rather than contact the parties by telephone she contact anyone involved by mail to request copies of their reports.

James Bowe requested that Anne Donovan-Heiser be provided a copy of the Committee’s member contact list. Anne Donovan-Heiser provided her email information to the recording secretary so she could be forwarded a copy of the Committee’s member contact list.

Harry Stevens questioned Anne Donovan-Heiser as to whether her insurance company would be going after Verizon to recover any expenses. Anne Donovan-Heiser advised that her insurance company would not give her an answer.

Robert Hafner questioned Anne Donovan-Heiser with regards to photos and the damaged oil return line. Anne Donovan-Heiser advised that Harris Fuel did take photos and she has the damaged oil return line. Robert Hafner commented with regards to her out of pocket expenses, he suggested contacting her insurance company and advised them that if they were going to pursue the matter, she would like them to protect her interest.

Anne Donovan-Heiser thanked the Committee members for their time and help with the matter.

James Manahan asked Anne Donovan-Heiser to keep the Committee informed.

Verizon Discussion

The Committee members discussed Verizon with regards to applying for the proper road opening permits.

Jerry Schenkman advised on his discussions with Bob Pellegrino with regards to the road opening permits.

James Manahan advised that he would follow up with Bob Pellegrino with regards to the road opening permits.

The Committee members discussed pulling Verizon’s permits to verify that Verizon has applied for all of the proper permits.

The Committee members discussed the property located at 193 Commonwealth Drive and Verizon not accepting responsibility.

Don Smith questioned James Manahan with regards to having a Verizon representative attend the monthly Committee meeting. James Manahan advised that he has been unsuccessful in having a Verizon representative attend a Committee meeting. The Committee members agreed that a representative should be present for the monthly Committee meeting.

The Committee members discussed the January 25, 2006 memorandum from Bob Pellegrino with regards to the Verizon Franchise Negotiations.

Brian Jeter advised the Committee that Comcast feels that Verizon should have to agree to the same type of terms and conditions that Comcast has over the years. He commented with regards to Comcast’s existing and prior Franchise Agreements. He discussed meeting the obligations of the Township/Borough.

Richard Fry commented with regards to the Township/Borough’s progress regarding the Verizon Franchise Agreement. He discussed construction within the Township and Borough. He commented with regards to the past cable providers and discussed cable competition. He advised that he is a resident from Warrington and that his Township has joined the Consortium and that’s why he is here. He advised that he can not receive Fios and discussed Doylestown being wired.

James Bowe advised that in some areas Verizon is not taking order for the Fios service.

Richard Fry thanked the Committee members for their time.

The Committee members thanked Richard Fry for his input.

COMCAST UPDATE:

Brian Jeter advised the Committee members with regards to the colleges/universities being connected. He advised that currently Holy Family and Bucks County Community College are connected and that LaSalle is not connected. He discussed the cost to connect LaSalle. He advised that he would follow up with his contact at LaSalle.

Brian Jeter commented with regards to producing programming content for the Township’s community channels and advised on an email he forwarded to James Manahan regarding a student who may be interested.

Brian Jeter advised the Committee members with regards to receiving content from LaSalle’s main campus in Philadelphia. He advised that the feed is currently not available directly to the Township and would have to go thru Comcast. He advised that if anything changes he will keep the Committee informed.

The Committee members discussed receiving content from the main campuses of Temple and Holy Family.

Brian Jeter updated the Committee members with regards to any programming changes.

James Bowe commented with regards to Comcast switching the Township’s Government Access Channel and how the public will be notified. Brian Jeter advised on the ways that Comcast would notify the residents. James Bowe stressed the need for the Township to advertise the channel move.

Brian Jeter advised the Committee members that the number of damaged lines has decreased within the Township/Borough. He advised that Comcast has begun repairs on the damaged underground lines within the Township/Borough.

James Bowe commented with regards to correspondence received from Comcast dated January 23, 2006 regarding rate increases.

Brian Jeter updated the Committee members with regards to the Family Tier that Comcast will be offering. He advised that the service is expected to launch March 28, 2006. The Family Tier will be approximately $35.00 per month and include 50 – 60 channels.

Brian Jeter explained the three (3) levels of service that Comcast is offering.

Don Smith commented with regards to Comcast moving the premium channels from analog to digital. He advised that the President of the Ambulance Squad tried to return an analog box at the Comcast office on State Street and was unable to. Brian Jeter advised he would take care of the problem. He advised on correspondence sent to all of the local EMS and Fire Stations.

Patrick Foster commented with regards to the cable card. Brian Jeter advised what a cable card is and how it works. He explained that the cable card is encoded and there is no two-way communication between Comcast and the receiver.

Scott Harp commented with regards to cable services at the Ambulance Squad and advised Brian Jeter to contact Joe at 215-968-3500 (ext. 110).

The Committee discussed the type of equipment Comcast is using in Warrington. Brian Jeter advised. He also provided Richard Fry with his business card to help answer any further questions.

The Committee thanked Brian Jeter for his time.

OTHER BUSINESS/MEMBER COMMENTS:

The recording secretary asked Scott Harp if he would like to continue to receive correspondence with regards to the Committee. He advised he would.

The Committee members discussed the monthly report to the Board of Supervisors. James Bowe advised that he feels the Committee should give a monthly report and explained why. He also advised that he felt Barbara Jankowski’s report to the Board of Supervisors was well done.

Scott Harp advised the Committee members that representatives from the Cable Company have been attending the monthly Committee meetings since 1982.

Scott Harp updated the Committee members with regards to the 1997 – 1998 Suburban Cable fifteen (15) year contract and the five (5) year extension. He commented with regards to bad programming and that the Township/Borough wanted to be provided better quality service. He discussed the need to bring competition to the area, increasing cable rates and RCN.

Scott Harp suggested inviting local Cable Boards to attend a meeting. The Committee agreed that was a good idea.

James Bowe suggested inviting State and Federal Representatives to attend a meeting.

ADJOURNMENT:

The meeting adjourned at 8:42P.M.

Once the meeting adjourned the Committee members met in Executive Session.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 1, 2006. The meeting will begin at 7:30 P.M., in the Newtown Borough Fire Station located at 14 Liberty Street, Newtown.

 

Respectfully submitted:

 

______________________________
Christy Holley, Recording Secretary