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Supervisors Protest Dropping of Scranton Channels

Supervisors Protest Dropping of Scranton Channels
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, February 1, 2018

DINGMANS FERRY – Supervisors at their regularly scheduled workshop and board meeting shared an announcement from Blue Ridge Communications that it is dropping television stations WBRE, WYOU and WNEP from its package as of Thursday, Feb. 1. Supervisors responded in the regular meeting by unanimously approving a letter of protest to be sent to BRC.

Copies will be sent to the Federal Communications Commission and the Pike County Commissioners.

Supervisor Jane Neufeld urged residents to send letter to Blue Ridge and to the FCC at 445 12th St., SW; Washington, DC, 20554 or to email the FCCs’ Consumer Help Center at https://consumer-complaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us.

Available at the meeting were copies of a letter to Blue Ridge Communications from State Rep. Rosemary Brown, R-189, stating residents in her district losing those channels would lose up-to-date weather, breaking news and general news reports tailored to the Northeast Pennsylvania region that affect them.

Blue Ridge Communications management told the Dispatch the affected area also is “the Milford vicinity,” which includes Milford, Blooming Grove and Shohola.

“Unless you get townships together acting together, you don’t have leverage,” resident Steve McBride said.

BRC said it sent a letter to customers and displayed a crawl notice at the bottom of the channels that its decision comes in response to a “doubling” of rates of the companies those three stations fall under:  Mission Broadcasting and Nexstar Broadcasting.

Blue Ridge Communications Consumer Complaints representative Eric Gamage, in a written response to a resident’s complaint shared by the board, explained that Blue Ridge will no longer carry those “out-of-market” channels out of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre “but will continue to carry the required DMA (Designated Market Area) channels that are part of the New York Market area.  They include New York stations WNBC-4, WCBS-2 and WABC-7.

“DMAs are often linked by major metropolitan cities, but in rural areas, they can be combined.  Some DMAs cover a huge geographical area, whereas others can be geographically small…The deciding factor in determining which DMA is assigned comes down to viewing habits.  If more than 50 percent of homes in a county watch certain TV stations, then the county is assigned that DMA based on viewership.  This can be true even if the county is geographically closer to another city.”

“We’re considered a New York marketing area but we should actually be considered West of the Delaware River,” resident George Beodeker said.

When asked his opinion, Supervisor Rick Koehler said those stations “don’t cover Pike County at all,” but acknowledged the opinion of the board and residents that those stations provide information during emergencies.

FALSE ALARM PENALTIES

Also at the meeting, the supervisors unanimously approved Ordinance 304, which provides for penalties for repeated false fire alarms caused by faulty fire detection, alarm equipment or negligence, following a public hearing that drew some public comment.

The ordinance states that written warnings would be issued on the first three offenses in a calendar year, detailing what steps can be taken to avoid future incidents.  A fourth false alarm is subject to a service fee not exceeding $100 and a fifth false alarm is subject to a service fee not exceeding $200, and/or legal action in either case by the township.

In another area of fines, township attorney Thomas Farley acknowledged the advice of McBride during the hearing and immediately amended Article IV-b to read that convicted violators before any magistrate or court competent jurisdiction pay a fine between $50 and $500, together with the costs of prosecution.  The ordinance originally stipulated only a magistrate ruling on the offense.

Delaware Township Volunteer Fire Co. member Richard Schultz expressed concern that “someone from the alarm company has a keyholder to respond, someone to call, so we do not have to break down the door” in the case of a false alarm.

NEW ROADMASTER APPOINTED

In other action, board Chairman John Henderson announced that at a Jan. 17 Special Meeting , it accepted the resignation of Michael Kolenet as township roadmaster “for personal reasons” and appointed Vincent Flatt at an annual salary of $47,320.  Kolenet was approved as a public works member at $17.99 hourly pay with a 2 percent cost of living increase at the meeting.

The board also unanimously agreed to allow Flatt to use township vehicle of his choice during the winter season so he could get out and check roads during emergencies without using his personal vehicle… The board also approved allowing township personnel to drive company vehicles to the scene of a fire when applicable but they must abide by all traffic laws when responding…It also allows the road crew to use township vehicles to resolve road issues affecting ambulances responding to emergency services.

In an effort to reconstitute the township Recreation Committee, the board moved to advertise for letters of interest from volunteers looking to fill five seats.  Henderson, who has led that effort, hopes to start the process by the end of February.  Supervisors responded to resident Ron Hough’s question that those committee members cannot accept money for rental of park facilities but have to refer those matters to the supervisors.

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