City contracts with LF School District and Great River Arts for local public access television

Channels 6 and 12 will be up and running as soon as policies are developed

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

Public Access Channels 6 and 12 in Little Falls are one step closer to being on air with programming. The Little Falls City Council agreed unanimously to contract with both Great River Arts and the Little Falls School District to operate and manage Channels 6 and 12, respectively.

City Attorney Toni Wetzel helped craft the contract and sent it to the League of Minnesota Cities for review.

Each entity will craft its own policy. Each contract is valid through Dec. 31, 2016, and year-to-year after that.

Channel 12 will be a completely independent school channel, said Little Falls Schools Superintendent Stephen Jones.

With the approved contract, Jones said the school district can begin working a staff shift into its budget for programming.

“We’re really excited about the prospect of the district being able to operate an access channel,” said Jones. A lot of what the school would do is in place, he said. The district wants to increase the efficacy of the broadcast media class, getting more kids involved and ultimately be able to publicize the things happening in each of the school buildings, instead of just the high school where the main focus has been, he said.

Scott Wunderlich, president of the Great River Arts (GRA) Board, said that once an agreement is in place, the GRA wants to start planning to get programming up on Channel 6 such as church services, council meetings and the county board, as these are programs that are prepared by someone else in the community and brought in to be aired on the channel.

Tackling the issue of setting policies for public access and public use will take a little time.

Whether or not the policies put in place by the two entities should be reviewed by the Council or the Cable Board was discussed.

Wetzel said the whole purpose of the plan was to “let the managing companies manage and the only confines that we put on that is that whatever policy they institute, has to be compliant with federal, state and local law.

“They are already under the restriction that whatever they do has to comply with the law,” said Wetzel. “The whole point is we’re (the city) out of it.”

Wunderlich said the GRA envisions the public access channel as another programming tool to broadcast performances at the Center and create original programming. “Not exactly documentaries, but something to highlight what goes on around Central Minnesota and Little Falls,” he said.

The GRA will meet with Jerry Abraham, former manager of public access television, to get an inventory of who owns what equipment in the studio, Wunderlich said.

Public access television is paid for out of cable franchise fees.

The arrangement agreed to is that 31 percent of the cable franchise fee and the public education and government (PEG) fee the city received in the previous year will be paid in monthly increments to the school district, which for 2014 is $31,000.

The GRA will receive 61 percent of the fees, which for 2014 is $61,000.

The city retains 8 percent of the fees collected to pay for administration.

City Finance Director Lori Kasella said that in addition to the monthly payments to the entities, each will receive start-up funds from the money not disbursed for the public access channel from Nov. 1, 2013, when Abraham retired to the present.

The school district will receive $6,000 in start-up funds and the GRA $11,600.

“I’m looking forward to see how it works out and what it will do for kids in terms of education,” Council Member Greg Zylka said.

“With these two organizations working together … we will have something Little Falls has never had before,” said Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

In other business Monday, the Little Falls City Council:

• Heard resident Robin Hensel ask that advance notice be given to anyone requesting to be on the agenda that they will not be on the agenda. She requested to be on the agenda to present a homeless bill of rights the week prior and said she wasn’t notified until just after 4 p.m. the day of the meeting that she would not be on the agenda. She also asked that everyone be limited to five minutes of comments;

• Agreed Jerry Lochner should meet with resident Bruce Thompson regarding a fence complaint on property that has since been sold;

• Pushed to another agenda the rewording of the parameters of the public forum section of the Council’s work session meeting. The proposal was to limit comments to three minutes instead of five minutes and a request to limit discussion items to those that fall within the authority of the City Council;

• Approved the sale of surplus items by the Friends of Linden Hill including pieces of a picket fence that has been replaced and a washer and dryer that no longer work and are not part of the history of the homes at Linden Hill;

• Approved the re-appointment of Lucy Tanner to the Library Board;

• Voted 4-4 to put the golf course under the jurisdiction of the Park, Recreation and Tree Board. With the tie vote, the motion failed;

• Approved promoting Little Falls Police Officer Kyle Johnson to captain, to move another officer to the full-time position held by Johnson and authorized Police Chief Greg Schirmers to post for a part-time position;

• Approved installing several streetlights in the Riverwood area at Haven Road, at Lowery Drive and about 300 feet south of Our Lady of Angels Addition and about 400 feet southerly of Elm Street;

• Set Monday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. for a public hearing regarding a project by St. Francis Health Services of Morris that recently acquired the Lutheran Care Center and Bridgeway Estates. St. Francis Health Services desires to refinance, on a tax-exempt basis, debt incurred at the Little Falls facility, with the cities of Browerville and Browns Valley to refinance the project, with no costs to the city;

• Approved posting the position of street and park foreman. The starting wage for the position would be 88 percent of the top of the pay scale ($26.50 per hour). The top of the pay scale for the position is $2 less per hour than that of the former street superintendent position left vacant when Bill Doroff retired; and

• Voted to name the land donated by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to the city of Little Falls as the “Little Falls Area Recreation Complex.” This is the 20-plus parcel of land targeted for a playground and other recreational facilities including a splash pad/skate park and more.

The next meeting for the Little Falls City Council is Monday, March 17, at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. The Council’s work session is tentatively set to begin at 6:30 p.m.

up arrow