Norway eyes changes in cable TV offerings due to rates

NORWAY — The Norway City Council will have a public hearing Monday, Sept. 23, on whether the city should sign a five-year agreement with Viacom Inc. and the National Cable Television Cooperative that raises prices.

The city was notified in August the two companies set higher membership prices for popular channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount. The new agreement would cost Norway residents with expanded video packages an additional $7.36 per month. Digital services customers would pay an extra $10.43.

The agreement, which must be signed by the end of September, could affect Norway cable rates in the future.

Iron Mountain-based telecommunications service provider Astrea — which supplies cable and internet for Norway — opted out of the agreement, Vice President Cory Heigl told the city council Monday.

By opting out, Heigl said, Astrea can provide more bandwidth for its customers and lessen annual increases to city rates.

City Manager Ray Anderson recommended the council follow Astrea’s example and not commit to the five years. The motion later was tabled until the public hearing.

In other business, the city council:

— Approved a water system asset management plan by GEI Consultants (Continued from 1-A)

Inc. in Iron Mountain to comply with a mandate by the State of Michigan which requires all community water supplies serving more than 1,000 people prepare such a plan. The plan focuses on mechanical reliability, with the city having to pay for any needed upgrades. Council Member Lee Meneghini voted against the motion, saying, “I have no problem with the program or the work that was done for the upgrades. My problem is with state mandates.”

— Authorized $25,320 to maintain stream gauges on the Sturgeon and Menominee rivers. The payment is part of a joint funding agreement between the city and the U.S. Geological Survey, which will contribute $4,460 for the continued operation of gauging stations.

— Amended a contract with Astrea, which recently changed its name from Packerland Broadband. Addendums include a monthly service charge of $4.76 per internet, phone or combination package and $7.50 per megabyte used for a period of two years.

— Transfered property and a deed restriction from Lon Hale to Joe Harteau. The deed restriction required construction begin on the property — which is near the corner of Summit Drive and Brier Mountain Road — by November, though Harteau can file for an extension.

During public comment, Norway resident Mark Bubloni asked the council about the city’s debt as well as electrical work done at the Dickinson County Fairgrounds just outside the Norway city limits.

Anderson said city debt was about $32 million, with $11 million in underfunded retirement pensions.

Anderson then explained the utility equipment at the fairgrounds belonged to the city. The work, which cost $38,000, was necessary, Anderson said, adding the County Fair Board would take responsibility for the equipment in the future.

A document from Norway City Treasurer Mary Pollard shows the debt at about $34.6 million, with $12.3 million of it in underfunded pensions.