Tisbury selectmen approve RFP for Comcast, MVTV

In executive session Tuesday, selectmen reviewed a request for proposals intended to pave the way for a new contract with Comcast, the Island’s cable television provider and likely the only bidder for a new contract.

The RFP was prepared by the cable advisory board, which includes a representative from each Island town, working with a lawyer and a consultant. The current contract provides a funding mechanism for Martha’s Vineyard Public Television (MVTV), the Island’s cable public access provider.

The selectmen approved the RFP. Selectman chairman Jeff Kristal announced the vote in open session in the regular meeting that followed.

He also took the opportunity to set the record straight regarding a story published in the Vineyard Gazette on Friday, “Comcast talks see new twist,” that reported that Tisbury’s representative on the CAB, Fred LaPiana, suggested the town would go its own way, pull out of the agreement with MVTV, and throw the entire contract negotiation into doubt.

“As for the paper that wrote an article last Friday,” Mr. Kristal began, “I’m speechless. But everything — just so I can quell that rumor — everything is fine between MVTV and the board of selectmen and the town of Tisbury, and we look forward to continuing.”

Under the terms of the Island’s current 10-year contract with Comcast, due to expire in June, Island towns receive five percent of the cable company’s revenue from subscriber fees for PEG (public, education, government) access, that now funds MVTV, about $400,000 a year.

Gazette reporter Mike Seccombe, who wrote the article that Mr. Kristal referred to and was present Tuesday, asked Mr. Kristal whether Tisbury’s portion of the MVTV fee would continue to go directly to MVTV as it has in the past, rather than through the town. Mr. Seccombe had reported that selectman Tristan Israel said that maybe the money should come to the town first, to make for greater accountability.

“As I stated before, we will not make any change to the contract, in the way that the money flows,” Mr. Kristal said. “And we have been working with MVTV, to satisfy some of the requests that we have, and it’s been assured that those requests are not out of the norm, and we have a very working and trusting relationship.

“It can’t get any clearer than that now, can it?” he added, looking at Mr. Seccombe. “I can’t wait to read the misquote on Friday. No, I’m joking, Mike.”

In a phone conversation yesterday, Mr. Kristal elaborated. “For the most part the RFP is the same, but it’s been updated a little bit, because now we’ve had a 10-year relationship with MVTV,” Mr. Kristal said.

An Island cable advisory committee made up of representatives from all six towns has been working on contract negotiations for MVTV. Island towns agreed to share the fees to pay attorney Bill Solomon to negotiate the contract for MVTV with Comcast.

In other business, the selectmen voted to approve amendments to regulations for Katharine Cornell Theatre. An increase in the rental fee from $50 to $75 for non-profit groups will not go into effect until next year. The selectmen also approved a request from Sail MV to close the Beach Street extension if the Vineyard Cup Event is held near the Black Dog Tavern in July.

The selectmen voted to rescind a previous vote to approve a beer and wine license renewal application for Waterside Market at the request of its owners. At the recommendation of selectman Tristan Israel, the selectmen also voted to waive the town’s beer and wine regulation that requires that food be served on china for Rocco’s Family Style Italian Restaurant this year.

The selectmen agreed to a public review and discussion of how the town’s first year of beer and wine licenses went at their meeting on February 8 at 5 pm.