Seaford City Council approves Comcast fee hike

By Lynn R. Parks

The Seaford City Council has approved a one-percent hike in the fee that it charges Comcast in order to allow the cable company to use public infrastructure.

The fee was set at three percent in the citys current 10-year contract with Comcast, which is set to expire in July. The new fee will be four percent. Based on current Comcast charges, that will mean an additional $16,894 in city coffers.

The new fee will be effective at the start of the citys new contract with Comcast, which will have to be approved by the city council.

The city council did not specify how the additional money will be used. It will go into the general fund, city manager Dolores Slatcher said.

Slatcher said that how much an individual Comcast bill increases because of the hike will depend on the services that the homeowner subscribes to. She told council members that the cable television bill for her household includes a $3.21 charge to pay the franchise fee. With the percentage increase, that number will jump to around $4.30.

The fee applies only to the part of Comcast bills that covers cable television. Any charges for telephone and Internet services are not included in the amount on which the fee is based.

The city council approved the one-percent fee hike by a three to two vote. Voting against the increase were councilmen Bill Mulvaney and Dan Henderson. Mulvaney had made an earlier motion that the fee be increased to five percent, the highest permitted by federal law.

We should go to five percent, like our neighboring communities, Mulvaney said. Blades, Laurel and Milford each charges a five-percent franchise fee. Georgetown charges a three-percent fee.

Bridgeville does not currently charge a franchise fee, but is considering doing so. Town manager Jesse Savage said that the towns contract with Comcast expires in 2019 and a decision on the franchise fee is a few months away.

Councilwoman Leanne Phillips-Lowe said that a one-percent hike would keep us competitive with neighboring communities and would be a little more palatable for the people than a two-percent increase.

Henderson did not want an increase in the fee at all, a position echoed by Mayor David Genshaw. Im for no change, Henderson said. This fee is based on Comcast rates, so when the rates increase, we get more money, whether we have a three-, four- or five-percent franchise fee.

Its only a dollar increase now, Genshaw added. But as Comcast raises its rates, it will go up. I am the last one who wants to raise any bills.

Speaking by email following the meeting, Genshaw added, I believe that any government revenue growth should come from our citys growth [in] business, housing, etc. Although this increase is small, my preference is not to increase fees to city residents.

During the meeting, Genshaw also pushed forward after Mulvaney suggested that the matter be tabled to take a closer look.

We have all the numbers that we need, Genshaw said. Theres no need to table this.

In the end, Mulvaney withdrew his motion, which had been seconded by Councilman Orlando Holland. Councilwoman Grace Peterson proposed that the fee be increased to four percent, a motion that was seconded by Phillips-Lowe.

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