Township clears hurdle for tv

Council agrees on town hall location for equipment

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"My goal is to have a West Milford public access station up and running, 24/7. As soon as possible."
Resident Gary Steele

BY LINDA SMITH HANCHARICK
They’ve talked about it for years, but Wednesday night all members of the township council agreed in principal to put a necessary piece of electronic equipment in town hall, which is a key step in getting the township its own local access television channel through Cablevision.

The franchise agreement between Cablevision and the township gives the town about $90,000 over a period of 15 years to be used to set up its own public access television station. Cablevision used to provide an employee and equipment to record township and school board meetings, then show them on a station shared with Warwick. That ended on Dec. 31 and now the council hires someone to record the meetings and deliver the video to Cablevision to air the next night.

Location was an issue
As part of the new contract, Cablevision will provide and install a fiber optic cable return line so that the township can upload its programming directly to Cablevision for viewing. The council formed a committee with the West Milford Board of Education to look into partnering in the television station for the benefit of students and the entire community. They looked into installing the line at the high school but that was deemed unsuitable for lack of security for the equipment and because of limited access.

The school board representatives suggested Hillcrest Community Center, which it owns and the township leases. But some on the council balked at that, especially with the council openly looking to get out of the building - and the $62,000 per year rent - after a new library is built, providing more space to the township.

In February, the school board passed a resolution supporting the joint endeavor of a television station and offered Hillcrest. Since then, according to Councilman Lou Signorino, a member of the cable television subcommittee, issues have arisen with the board of education over other projects as well.

As a matter of fact, the township and Board of Education had Cablevision look at several places in the township, including the high school field and high school auditorium.

From the start, resident Gary Steele, who had been in the television production business for many years, suggested the town hall as the ideal spot for the equipment. He’s said they only needed a closet, of sorts, where the line, or box as it is sometimes called, and the township’s server would be located. A full studio wasn’t necessary to get this project off the ground. And that, he said, is his goal.

“My goal is to have a West Milford public access station up and running, 24/7,” said Steele, “as soon as possible.”

He was against the notion of spending a lot of money for a studio. For their purposes, he said, the township would be able to provide programming from multiple sites with minimal equipment expenditures. He’s always maintained that putting the return and the server in a closet in town hall – which has everything needed: power, a back-up generator, air conditioning, and on-site security with the West Milford Police Department in the same building – would serve the purposes of the township and its local access channel.

“It’s our link to the TV world,” he said.

The discussion
The township currently has about $50,000 in hand from Cablevision, according to Signorino. But there have been major hurdles – including what exactly will be built, what is necessary and, of course, where it will be.

At one point, the joint committee even visited a local television station in Cranford that was in existence for many years. But they kept coming back to what is absolutely necessary to have a station up and running. According to Steele, it's just basic equipment. With Cablevision providing the line, the township will have to provide a server, which costs about $15,000.

And since the discussions included more than just the township and board of education meetings airing on the channel, affordable cameras could be purchased and borrowed for events like the Autumn Lights Festival, sporting events and parades. Steele, a member of a local ad hoc committee, said this committee had already purchased six cameras, each costing $60. With that, he said, you don’t need insurance because you’re won’t be loaning out $3,000 cameras.

Steele is a fan of no frills. He said he wanted the channel up and running, no studio necessary. Just get the equipment, send the letter to Cablevision committing to the location and get rolling, he said.

New library suggested
Wednesday night, Signorino suggested the council consider making a vestibule in the proposed library as the dedicated space for the equipment. He said they would need a desk and a monitor and someone to look over any programming submitted for the station, which would require more than a closet.

“We really do need to have some kind of dedicated space for this,” said Signorino. “It’s not a box in a closet.”

But that’s in the future. For now, the council agreed that the town hall would be the best spot for the equipment. Signorino and Councilman Mike Hensley, who make up the council’s cable television subcommittee, will give all the details to the council including how they will monitor submissions, how the equipment works, and how it will be set up.

You can watch anytime
While the township is having its meetings recorded and broadcast on Cablevision channel 77, Steele has been recording all of the meetings since January and uploading them onto the web at www.Vimeo.com. Here, residents can view any meeting, any time they want on their computer, tablet or mobile device. Just search for West Milford at the Vimeo site.

What do you think of the council getting nearer to a full-fledged public access channel for the township? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and be part of the discussion.

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