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Farmington, Hills Approve Changes to SWOCC Agreement

Along with Novi, the cities will have more of a hand in the cable studio's operations.

Farmington officials on Monday night joined their colleagues in Farmington Hills and Novi in approving that will alter the way operates.

SWOCC produces government programming and provides facilities for residents to produce and air their own cable shows at Nine Mile and Farmington roads in Farmington. A board that includes representatives from all three cities oversees operations.

City Manager Vince Pastue said restructuring will place a manager in charge of day-to-day business but will eliminate the executive director position held by Caren Collins. The goal, he said, is to "address a projected long-term operating deficit and a financial plan that does not address capital equipment replacement," while still providing productions for all three cities.

"The deficit became fairly acute this past year," Pastue said. "We were hopeful some outside revenues would supplement (the budget), but we're not confident that's going to take place."

Council member JoAnne McShane asked about the amount of the deficit, which Pastue said was about $40,000. But, he added, the budget did not contain any funding for capital equipment replacement.

"We think it's in the best interests of not just the SWOCC, but the three communities as well," Pastue said of the new structure.

Farmington will continue to handle general accounting for SWOCC and will now play a larger role in budgeting. Farmington Hills' central services department will handle purchasing, and the city of Novi will provide assistance with human resources. All three cities will play a larger role in managing the franchise agreement with Bright House Networks.

The agreement provides the cities with a portion of cable revenues to produce public access, educational and government (PEG) programs. The cities originally formed the consortium in 1982. Pastue pointed out that the way information is delivered has changed in recent years. Also, local franchise agreements are being phased out as they expire, because of a 2006 Michigan law that provides for a uniform video service local franchise agreement, administered by the Michigan Public Services Commission.

SWOCC struck a 15-year agreement with Time-Warner Entertainment in 2000; it was transferred to Bright House in 2002.

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