Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sun Valley grants Cox another extension

Franchise agreement renewal discussions continuing


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley City Council has granted Cox Communications another operation extension as negotiations over its cable franchise agreement with the city continue.

Guy Cherp, Cox's vice president of operations for Wood River Valley, asked for a six-month extension at the City Council's Dec. 15 meeting. The council approved a three-month extension.

"We certainly stand ready to engage ... with the goal of crossing the finish line as quickly as possible for mutual agreement," Cherp said.

Councilman Bob Youngman said a shorter deadline might be more motivating.

"We thought that we wouldn't necessarily have the impetus to really focus on it and get it done, on both sides," Youngman said, adding, "It's not a difficult process to extend it for whatever time we need at that point."

This summer, as the expiration of the company's contract for cable services loomed, the city held public hearings to gather input on how to proceed. Residents packed City Hall, with many voicing complaints about customer service and technical issues. Some residents supported the agreement renewal.

The council opted to grant a five-month extension while it worked with Cox to address issues.

A temporary committee—with members Jim Knight, Harry Griffith, Kevin Laird and Councilmen Nils Ribi and Bob Youngman—was appointed to lead the effort.

The committee, with help from an outside attorney who specializes in franchise agreements, presented a draft document to the City Council last month. Cox then reviewed and commented on that draft.

The other consideration for a shorter timeline is that attorney and his fees.

"As you know, we have an attorney on retainer," Ribi said. "We really do have an incentive on our part to get this done."

The next step is for parties to sit down and mull over each other's proposed changes.

"Now we're going to get down to, I'll say real discussions with some people in a room," said Mayor Wayne Willich. "Let's get the folks in a room and let's get it done."

The new deadline is March 15.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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