A satellite dish on every house? | AspenTimes.com

A satellite dish on every house?

The Pitkin County commissioners decided yesterday to re-evaluate the feasibility of the county’s TV translator service.And one of the alternatives they’re willing to consider is scrapping the system altogether in favor of buying satellite dishes for the last few residents who rely on it for their television signal.The translator system, which rebroadcasts television and FM radio signals into remote areas of the county where cable is unavailable, has an annual budget of $505,000.While the board did not hesitate to approve this year’s budget for FM radio rebroadcasts, it balked when it came to the expense of the television service.”I feel the need to flag this. We are allocating around $150,000 a year for television to a population of around 150 people,” Commissioner Shellie Roy said yesterday.”Wouldn’t this money better be used for health and human services, or some such project?” she continued. “Wouldn’t it save us money to just install satellite dishes for the translator users?”The television translator system will receive the money needed for the next fiscal year, but the board has decided to discuss long-term alternatives in the coming months. Commissioner Mick Ireland said this is not a new issue.”We seem to deal with this issue each year,” Ireland told the board. “And we decided over the last few years to improve the service. It’s not as simple as just wasted money.”In a study compiled in April of this year, the Public Works department attempted to measure the number of translator users and the importance of the system to them.”What we found was that there are a limited number of viewers using this service, but those that do rely heavily on it,” Brian Pettet, director of the county’s public works department, said.In the study, the commissioners concluded the following factors should be considered in determining the future of the translator service:-In 1995, voters approved of the service by a margin of 3-2, a margin which shows strong support for the system.-Although the translator service has recently reacquired access to PBS and Fox networks, users report that reception for all channels is unreliable. -Site maintenance: Even if the TV service is disconnected, the county would still need to maintain the mountaintop translator sites for FM radio and public announcements. Although, some of the money saved from discontinuing TV service could be used for this maintenance.-If satellites were ever disrupted, the translator system would be needed to provide emergency information.-The perception among some that the county focuses its tax dollars on “urban services,” such as transportation and affordable housing, and that “rural” services are lower on its priority list. Continuing the translator system helps balance this perception.In the coming months, the Board of County Commissioners will examine all these factors as they determine whether to maintain the TV translator service.”The board asks this question each year, so we know what the issues are,” Pettet said after the meeting. “But that’s the responsible thing for the board to do – re-examine the efficacy of its public spending.”[Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com]

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