Starting next month, many Vancouver residents will have a cable TV option besides Comcast for the first time.
Monday, the city council granted a five-year, non-exclusive cable TV franchise to CenturyLink effective Jan. 22 through Dec. 31, 2020. The company will provide Internet-based Prism TV service to the area, allowing customers to use wireless set-top boxes, set their DVRs remotely, watch and record multiple shows at once with a single DVR, or pause a show and pick it up in another room. The service offers a variety of packages and more than 210 high-definition channels.
The city doesn’t have the legal authority to regulate rates, which haven’t been established yet in Vancouver. However, having a competitor in the market could result in lower prices for consumers.
In addition to delivering another TV service besides Comcast, the franchise agreement will drive availability of higher broadband speeds using CenturyLink’s existing telephone infrastructure. CenturyLink will work to expand its Prism TV service along its existing fiber telephone lines — a connection speed of 40 megabits per second is required for Prism to function.
“It’s going to be a slow expansion. Once they get the cable franchise, it’s not like they’ll flip a switch and everyone will get cable service. There will be a roll-out they’ll be working on over the next few years,” Jim Demmon of the City/County Cable Television Office said in October.
City and county representatives began meeting with CenturyLink in December 2014. Under the agreement, CenturyLink will pay 5 percent of gross revenues in franchise fees to the city and collect $1 per month per residential subscriber to support public, education and government channels and the Institutional Network.
• Also Monday, the council approved a year-end supplemental budget that tacks on an additional $39.3 million in expenditures and 13.5 full-time employees to the 2015-16 biennial budget. Vancouver’s 2015 general fund budget is $137.7 million.
The new positions for 2016 are six police officers, five maintenance workers to maintain street medians, a one-year position for a geographic information system maintenance engineering technician, a deputy fire marshal, and a half-time information technology systems analyst.
The additional police officer job slots will allow the department to begin recruiting and training officers in anticipation of retirements. The positions will be funded by recreational marijuana excise taxes, of which the city is receiving $790,500 in 2016. The allocation will bump up the number of sworn officers the department is authorized to have from 190 to 196, according to Police Chief James McElvain.
A big chunk of the additional expenditures is a $15 million increase for the Waterfront Park Project, which is funded by state grants, donations, real estate excise tax revenue, general fund capital reserves and general funds.
• The council awarded a construction contract for the downtown Waterfront Park trail to Colf Construction of Vancouver, which submitted the lowest bid of $255,645. The bid came in significantly lower than the engineer’s estimate of $750,000, which is the amount of a Federal Highway Administration grant the city received for the regional trail component. According to city documents, the difference will be used to pay for removing unknown obstructions and management of contaminated soil, if it’s encountered.
• The council also gave a warm farewell to retiring Councilman Larry Smith during his last meeting. Smith, who has served three council terms, was given a standing ovation after Mayor Tim Leavitt read a proclamation in his honor and presented him with a key to the city.