At Tuesday's Southold town board work session, Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said the town was in the process of renegotiating the cable franchise agreeement with Cablevision.
Franchise fees are collected on behalf of the town where residents live for the use of public rights of way and the administration of cable television franchises.
Finnegan said Southold and Riverhead are "tag teaming," and working together to update the past agreement.
One point of negotiation, he said, involves television coverage of public meetings.
Cablevision, he said, has suggested a new system that would update coverage techniques, with three cameras and new equipment in the town board room to allow for taping of not only town board meetings, which are currently taped, but zoning board, planning board, and a wide range of other meetings.
"It wouldn't necessarily mean getting rid of the human being who tapes the meetings now, but the systems would be updated," Finnegan said. "More meetings could be filmed."
The new systems would reduce the cost of filming. "They're trying to defray as much cost as possible," Finnegan said.
Finnegan said a needs assessment was necessary, with a consultant needed to look at the town board room and confirm that the new system would be suitable for Town Hall.
Councilwoman Louisa Evans asked if there was no one in-house that could do the work, or if someone from the vendor company, Lantronix, that could come in and discuss their products.
Network & Systems Administrator Lloyd Reisenberg said the consultant was a former Cablevision employee with over 30 years of experience who would charge only $65 to $70 per hour.
Cablevision would pay for the cost of the equipment, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said, but the town would pay for the consultant.
Russell added that the goal would be to expand production capabilities within town and involve local students.
Russell said the board could draft a resolution to pay the consultant no more than $500.
In Riverhead, Deputy Town Attorney Dan McCormick said the franchise renewal agreement expired in June, while Southold's expired in September. The towns, he said, are in a "holdover period," with the original agreement still in effect, and no deadline looming. "We're actively engaged in good faith negotiations at this time," he said.
The franchise fee, he added, is paid by Cablevision into the town's general fund and considered reimbursement for the town's administration of Cablevision operations and services; the town, he said, receives five percent.
Of the possible new cameras, McCormick said, "Cablevison would like to go in another direction; they would rather not have to provide personnel, for business reasons. They would like the towns to take over those duties."
Cablevision, he added, would, under the proposed plan, provide funding for additional equipment and technological upgrades that would allow the towns to record meetings in an expeditious manner.
"The wonderful thing about this is the state of technology has increased since we executed the original agreement," he said. "Digitalized cameras have higher quality, and the ability to record is much less cumbersome. It's much easier now to record and upload data to Cablevision."
He added that it was not immediately known how long negotiations would go one. "It's a huge contract," he said.
"Cablevision has a long-standing relationship with both Riverhead and Southold while providing our customers with excellent TV, phone and Internet service at an exceptional value. We are currently in active franchise renewal negotiations and look forward tocontinuing to serve both towns," said Allison Watters of Cablevision.