BOS OK’s Verizon deal, but Blue Hills costs loom

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The Board of Selectmen received mixed financial news at its most recent public meeting on Tuesday, August 8. On the plus side, the board signed a new five-year extension of the town’s cable agreement with Verizon that comes with more than $450,000 in capital funding and revenues. On the other hand, selectmen learned that the town could be on the hook for a big bill over a 30-year span to help pay for a major renovation project at Blue Hills Regional Technical School.

In the case of the Verizon contract, the Canton Cable Advisory Committee, following seven months of negotiations, agreed to a new deal with Verizon to extend its cable contract to August 7, 2022. The committee, headed by Jim Sims, included Town Administrator Charlie Aspinwall, Information Systems Manager Louis Jutras, School Business Administrator Barry Nectow, Canton Community TV General Manager Tanya Willow, and Attorney Peter Epstein.

The committee had originally sought a 10-year extension, but Verizon agreed to five years. Sims said the length of the contract was most likely due to technological changes. The new agreement gives the town a high-definition public channel (available March 1, 2018) and three standard public channels. Verizon also agreed to keep an office in town — currently at the Village Shoppes — until 2020, the year the town’s license with Comcast ends.

Under the terms of the agreement, the town, through the selectmen, will receive .47 percent of Verizon’s annual gross revenues for the first three years and .64 percent of gross revenues for the final two years. Verizon will spend in excess of $300,000 in capital funding for Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) access channels and another $155,200 in various sums to the town over the life of the agreement. Sims said the Cable Advisory Committee will next begin ascertainment hearings with Comcast on a new cable agreement.

Regarding the Blue Hills Regional project, the 50-year-old school is expected to spend $84.6 million for HVAC, plumbing, roofing, window, electrical and ADA compliance renovations.

The Massachusetts School Business Authority will reimburse the school for nearly 55 percent of the total expense with the nine communities in the Blue Hills district covering the balance of the costs. In Canton’s case, with an average enrollment of 62 to 79 students per year, the town is slated to pay an estimated $200,000 a year for 30 years (beginning in 2020) on top of its annual assessment, which is pegged at $1.2 million for the current fiscal year.

Blue Hills will require the approval of all towns or face a district election across all nine communities, with the cost of each community’s election borne by the Blue Hills District School Committee. Braintree and Randolph, each run by town councils, will decide the issue in September. Canton will wait …

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