Tuesday, August 25, 2015

TOP STORY >> Comcast told to pay more

Leader staff writer

Who’s trying to skin the city? That’s what Sherwood Mayor Virginia Young wants to know.

Is it Comcast or the auditors Sherwood hired to look into the amount Comcast owes the city?

The city paid the auditing firm $8,000 to review franchise fees that Comcast might owe the city. Auditors said the firm owed the city $71,000.

But Mike Wilson, president of Comcast in Arkansas, showed Alderman Charlie Harmon where the company had a “favored nation” clause in its contract and couldn’t be charged a higher fee than anyone else. According to Wilson, the company is willing to pay the city $34,200 under the condition that the city signs a new 10-year agreement with the firm and audits all other companies in the same manner that it audited Comcast.

The mayor was perturbed with Comcast’s proposal, presented at the council meeting Monday night.

“We don’t negotiate with other firms that owe us money. Did we get taken by the auditors? Does Comcast owe us $71,000 or not?” she asked.

Harmon said chances were that the auditors didn’t know about the clause in the contract. She felt they should have and did not want to accept the firm’s proposal. “First, it’s none of their business whether we audit another company or not,” Harmon said.

The council agreed and voted, with Alderman Kevin Lilly abstaining, to send the company a counter proposal accepting the $34,200 and agreeing to work out a new contract, but with no further compromises or concessions. City Attorney Stephen Cobb will take the offer to Comcast and report back to the council.

In other council business:

The city attorney, seeing that the council chambers was packed with residents announced that the ordinance restricting recreational vehicles had been pulled for the time being and that a rezoning issue for a portion of Kiehl Avenue was also not on the agenda.

After that announcement, about 25 percent of the audience left.

Aldermen approved the sale of city property on Trammel Road to the Brushy Island Hunting Club, which wants the property for better access to the 40 acres they own behind it. No hunting will be done on the purchase property, as most of it is inside city limits.

The club originally offered $18,500, the price the city paid for the property about a year ago when it was planning to use it for a police gun range before an outcry that caused them to halt those plans. The mayor asked the club to pick up closing costs from this sale and from when the city bought the property, about $600 total, so there would be no money lost.

But Alderman Ken Keplinger reminded the council that the city had done about $3,000 worth of improvements, including fill dirt, before stopping the range project. The club offered to raise its purchase price another $3,000 to cover the improvements.

The council approved a rezone request that would allow indoor boarding of pets in C-3 and C-4 commercial zones. It would also allow outdoor kennels in those areas on a case-by-case basis. The change came about when Groomingtails wanted to move its business to a larger location.

“We discovered that our ordinance only allow veterinarians to board pets,” explained City Engineer Ellen Norvell. “I’m sure it was not intentional to disallow grooming services, so that’s why the zoning change was requested.”

The council unanimously approved the zoning request.

Aldermen approved a resolution to purchase a camera and related equipment to record Sherwood meetings for replay or streaming on the city’s website. No date was set to start filming meetings.