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Brainerd, CLC to collaborate on new public cable channel

Once hardware is acquired, installation, provisioning and training will all take some time before broadcasting can begin.

Brainerd City Hall 1.JPG
Brainerd City Hall. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The city of Brainerd is moving forward on a partnership with Central Lakes College to begin broadcasting public meetings on TV once again.

While the city previously aired its council meetings on a public, education and government access channel through a partnership with Lakes Media Collaborative, that has not happened since before last year’s renovations at city hall, which drove the council to meet at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse.

During the renovations, the city attempted to work with Lakes Media Collaborative to reinstall the audio equipment as well as purchase and install updated video equipment for the council chambers in order to be able to air the meetings on TV again. City Administrator Jennifer Bergman and Information Technology Director Shawn Strong reported in 2020, however, they were having a hard time coordinating with Lakes Media Collaborative to get and install the equipment, which triggered council discussion about cutting ties altogether.

The Brainerd City Council agreed Monday, Nov. 1, to use previously collected cable franchise fees to begin purchasing service and equipment to reimplement the cable channel with the help of CLC. The city has $64,880 in franchise fee funds right now.

Physical connections from CLC to Spectrum need to be constructed, which will cost a one-time fee of $1,510 and monthly costs of $695. Physical connections from CLC to CTC will use existing fiber, but there will be hardware costs of about $1,000, and staff believes ongoing costs should be minimal.

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Hardware costs are estimated at about $30,000 through CableCast.

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Supply chain issues are already a hindrance, Strong told the council’s personnel and finance committee Monday, so he advised the council to act quickly.

Once hardware is acquired, installation, provisioning and training will all take some time before broadcasting can begin.

The city had been working with the media collaborative since 2005, when meeting minutes show the council made a motion to contribute annual franchise fees to the group so government meetings could be broadcast. The city continued paying those franchise fees for the next 15 years, though no formal agreement between the two entities can be found.

The council has since decided to cut ties with Lakes Area Media Collaborative and, after a recommendation from the cable TV advisory committee in August, agreed to begin working with CLC to once again air council meetings on a public access government channel. Staff will now work with the college to establish an agreement and arrange staffing for operating the meetings. The city will continue paying franchise fees but to CLC instead of the media collaborative.

RELATED: Brainerd aims to simplify police, fire hirings by dissolving commission

Also in August, the council directed staff to draft a letter to Lakes Media Collaborative requesting it return unused city funds. There is roughly $700,000 in the collaborative’s general fund, Strong said, and the vast majority of that is likely from the franchise fees Brainerd has paid over the last 15 years, while some may be from Baxter or past grants.

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Bergman said Monday she has not heard back since sending the letter.

In other business Monday, the council:

Approved a grant application to the Department of Natural Resource’s State Park Road Account for improvements to the road in Lum Park leading to the public boat launch on Rice Lake. The application requests $143,000 for road improvements.

Approved a final pay estimate for the city’s 2021 seal coat project at a cost of $151,390.94, which is about 1.86% lower than the revised contract amount.

RELATED: Commission approves language for warming shelter permits in Brainerd

Accepted the resignation of Community Service Officer Cole Thoma, effective Nov. 2, and authorized staff to fill the vacancy.

Approved a tentative agreement with the Law Enforcement Labor Services Local No. 65 union for 2022-24 with a 2.5% cost of living adjustment for each year.

Approved the job description for a human resources assistant, a position that is included in the 2022 budget.

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Scheduled a budget workshop to discuss the 2022 tax levy for 6 p.m. Nov. 22 at city hall.

Adjourned to a council workshop at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8, to discuss the zoning code and the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .
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The Dispatch publishes records as part of its obligation to inform readers about the business of public institutions and to serve as a keeper of the local historical record.