|GROUP VOTES TO CITE CABLE FIRM|
|December 12, 2001 12:00 am|
GOLD BEACH The Curry County Cable Ombudsman Committee voted Tuesday to cite Charter Communications for failure to notify, and asked the company to pay compensation for damages done to a yard.
No fine will accompany the citation, however.
Both actions are recommendations only and must be voted on by the Curry County Commissioners.
The complaints were brought to the committee by Laurie Wills. She said Charter crews entered her property on North Bank Road, east of Gold Beach, without notification and left ruts in her yard.
Wills also demanded that Charter remove a cable that was strung to a utility pole on her property during one of the companys building projects.
The cable committee shied away from that issue, but Earl DeSomber, manager of Charters Crescent City plant, said he has decided to take the cable down.
First, he said, the Wills need to understand that if they sell their property to someone who wants access to cable, Charter will not pay the $1,000 to $2,000 it would take to put the line back in.
DeSomber said he talked with Charters legal advisor and was told he didnt have to remove the cable.
Since the Wills dont want to allow their renters to have cable service, however, DeSomber said he can see no reason for leaving the cable up, as long as the Wills understand Charter will not pay to reinstall it.
He said having no cable access could devalue their property.
Committee Chairman Don Tilton said Wills complaint contained two issues that the committee felt it could address.
First, he said, was Charters failure to notify the Wills, and possibly others, before it went on their land.
He said DeSomber had admitted in a previous meeting that he didnt know for sure whether the Wills had been notified or not.
Second, said Tilton, was the damage caused by the Charter crew parking a dually pickup on the Wills lawn.
He said Laurie had reported that it took her five or six hours to fill in the ruts in her lawn and reseed the grass.
As for the other complaints, Tilton felt that Charter was operating within the terms of its franchise with the county.
He said stringing the cable to the pole was within the contract because the Wills renters had requested the service.
Tilton said the committee wanted to stay away from the issue of the cable because any decision could set a precedent where others ask the committee to have lines removed.
DeSomber said he had the same concern. County Commissioner Marlyn Schafer agreed that the county shouldnt be involved in that issue.
Committee member David Hoenie said the committee doesnt want to get involved in a possible lawsuit between the Wills and Charter.
DeSomber said he didnt personally place a door-tag informing the Wills that Charter would be entering their property, but he couldnt say for certain whether it was done or not.
He said placing the door-tag was part of Charters contract with its subcontractor. Im not saying we didnt do it, he said.
He also said he never saw the damage to Wills lawn, and couldnt say for certain that Charters contractor was ever on it. He said he didnt know why the truck would have been on the lawn.
Dennis Putnam, another Charter employee, said he was the first to hear about the damage. He said he offered to pay Wills expenses, but she said it was beside the point.
Tilton suggested asking Brookside Nursery, which Charter had used in the past, for an hourly estimate of what it would have cost to repair the damage, then multiply that times the number of hours it took Wills to make the repair.
DeSomber said he removed anchors for guy-wires from Wills lawn when she requested he do so. He said she made no mention of any other damage to her lawn at that time.
I dont want to claim guilt for something were not guilty of, said DeSomber.
Tilton said it was the decision of the committee that Charter had caused the damage. He said Charter did not have to admit guilt.
Schafer said the county learned from the Wills complaint and now has a process to expedite claims faster. She (Wills) wanted us to say Charter has no right to go on her property and were not going to do that, said Schafer.
Tilton said Charter using the easement of Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative has become an issue everywhere.
On top of that, he said, Wed all had our fill of Falcon Cable, and when the change took place to Charter, we (the public) didnt see much change.
Hoenie said hed asked for a written outline of how Charter intends to handle complaints about itself and its subcontractors.
He said hed received nothing after three or four committee meetings.
I missed that, said DeSomber. He said he would write up something, but Charters policy has always been to fix any damage caused, not to pay compensation.
Putnam said hes taken subcontractors out with him to help repair any damage so they can learn from the experience.
As for the failure to notify, he said when he and DeSomber talked with the Wills about damaging their property, Jim Wills told Laurie that they had received a door tag.
Tilton said DeSomber had been at several meetings and never responded when Laurie said they had not received a notification tag.
I dont want to say either side is not telling the truth, said Tilton. There is a third party involved which is not here.
He said hed be willing to issue a citation without a fine this time, and Hoenie voted with him to do so. Member Dale St. Marie was not present. DeSomber said, We have the right of ingress and egress to get to the easement.
Schafer said she thought Charter needed to notify owners in writing before crossing private property to access the easement.
Its a courtesy thing, said Putnam.
Tilton said that might be true when Charter is servicing its lines, but when it is installing cable, the rules are ambiguous, even in an easement.
We should issue a citation without a fine, he said, and you guys should smile.
He said even the $250 fine that the county could have imposed would have been symbolic. He suggested Charter work on its customer relations.
On that issue, Schafer said she had received two calls from cable customers who liked Charters new toll-free phone number to a call center in Vancouver, Wash. She said their problems were resolved quickly.
County Counsel Jerry Herbage said hed had a complaint call about Charter doing away with its local number.
Hoenie said he called the toll-free number Monday and it took him 30 minutes to explain what he could have explained to the local person in two minutes.
I disagree with having no local number available, he said.
Hoenie also said all the channels were out when he left for work recently. He said the people in Vancouver had no idea there was a problem, or even where Gold Beach was.
Its a training issue, said DeSomber. He said there are 70 new employees learning about 40 different cable systems. He said service is improving.
Hoenie said if a local number had still been in the loop, the call center would have known there was a problem.
Its more the customer service side of it, he said, giving some answer versus no answer.
DeSomber did have an answer for why channel 2-Fox had been off the air. He said snow and bad weather had knocked out the microwave receiver that transmits the feed to Charter.
He said in the future, Charter will substitute a satellite feed so customers will continue to get Fox programming, though it may be from a more distant city.