City channel begins broadcast, but don't expect to see Council meetings

By Thomas Wilson
Elizabethton citizens subscribing to Charter cable television may have noticed a new look to cable channel 16. The City of Elizabethton government channel began full operation last week posting government information over the cable channel.
"Part of our franchise agreement with Charter cable included a government information channel some years ago," said City Manager Charles Stahl, who credited Police Sgt. Jack Ramsey with overseeing the development of the channel.
The nerve center of the community channel operates from the Elizabethton Police Department. Charter Communications wired the police department with fiber optics cable to create a public access channel for use by the city. The city spent $6,000 to purchase computer equipment to post local information on the channel approximately two years ago.
A computer complete with CD-Rom and floppy disk allows a channel programmer to upload text and photographs to post on the channel. Deal said Ramsey typically writes government announcements that are immediately translated to the channel.
Water outages, city council agendas, public works projects and other government news are planned to light up channel 16 in the future, say city officials.
"We will eventually have information about the planning commission and board of zoning appeals and information for the general public," said David Ornduff, director of planning and development. Ornduff said his department planned to post contact information on how to obtain building permits, subdivision and property development plans as well as city zoning regulations.
Elizabethton Police Chief Roger Deal said the channel would solely broadcast city government related news and information. He said the department saw the channel as a good opportunity to move information to the public at a minimal cost.
"We jumped on it and thought it would be a good tool for the community," said Deal. He also said the department planned to use the channel as an information outlet if the department's Amber Alert system was ever activated to locate a missing or abducted child. The department also plans to add weather technology to provide current temperature and rainfall information to viewers.
Charter had previously broadcast meetings of the Johnson City Commission to its Elizabethton cable customers. The Johnson City Commission meetings have apparently become must-see TV among many Elizabethton and Carter County viewers.
Since the government channel has begun operation, Charter will preempt those meeting broadcasts to customers in the city. Unlike Johnson City, Elizabethton city officials say there are no current plans to broadcast Elizabethton City Council meetings on the channel.
"There isn't a drive to broadcast council meetings," said Stahl, who estimated the city's cost of broadcasting council meetings at roughly $50,000 annually.