Tempers flared Thursday at the regular meeting of the Benham City Council when a local cable television provider told Mayor Betty Howard that current television franchise owner, Ed Cannon, wasn't fulfilling the terms of the city's television franchise agreement.
Black Mountain Television owner Vernon Engle said Cannon didn't have funds to repair the cable system in east Benham, which had been damaged by ice on Dec. 31. Engle said Cannon contacted him with a request that he provide residents of that area with television service until his company, Benham Community TV, could repair the damage.
Engle said he was still providing service to those residents while they were paying their cable bill to Benham Community TV and not to Black Mountain TV.
"Residents are in a confused state right now. They should have a choice of which cable [provider] they want," said Howard.
In recent weeks, rumors circulated that Cannon was going out of business and that Engle was going to be the only cable television provider in Benham.
Councilwoman Wanda Humphrey said that Cannon told her that he was not quitting his business and to "set the residents straight" about the miscommunication.
Since the city council is the franchise authority, Engle accused Howard of not enforcing the franchise rules. However, Howard said she was addressing the problem.
"Benham Community TV has been neglecting the eastern side of Benham while servicing the rest," said Howard.
"The council found Benham Community TV neglective and is notifying Cannon by certified mail for the business to come into compliance with the franchise and it needs to service the whole Benham area not just part of it," Howard said.
While tThere are different opinions about the franchise, Howard said she believes she has done nothing wrong.
Engle agreed to proceed with the franchise agreement until it can be revised.
In the coming days, the residents of Benham will be receiving letters concerning the back taxes.
Howard said Benham residents were estimated to owe at least $19,000, in delinquent taxes to the city from over a period of 20 years.
"We are going to have to do something. It is going to be hard, but it's something that has got to be done, said Howard.
"The residents are notified twice a year. This is their last chance."
In other business, the council:
n was informed of a conversation the mayor had with a Division of Water spokesperson who advised her that replacing the metal water pipe that broke last month with plastic pipe would save a great deal of money. The plastic pipe would allegedly reduce instances of water leakage.
"The city of Benham pays $500 a week for the pump to run water to the residents, which without the pump wouldn't have any water at all," said Howard.
n approved using $39,000 left over from the Benham Theater project to repair a sidewalk that had been destroyed during the renovation project.
n approved a motion unanimously requesting that Engle be present quarterly at the meetings.