New information about a February rate increase reached aldermen Tuesday and stalled passage of a resolution that would have extended the City of Olean's contract with Adelphia Cable Communications' parent company for an additional two years. The contract expired and a special counsel has been hired by the city to work out terms for an extension. A 6 p.m. public hearing on the two-year interim contract extension was attended Tuesday only by Adelphia representative Joe Gaska and Ward 7 Alderman John Padlo.
Aldermen then prepared to vote on the measure in the Common Council meeting that followed, but Padlo convinced them to send the matter instead to the Ways and Means Committee to gather more information.
He pointed out that the mayor's office Monday had received notice that Adelphia plans a rate increase in February and passed a letter detailing that information to aldermen. Padlo said he would have argued against the two-year extension had the notice come a few weeks sooner. He said he does not want to cause more hardship for the company but expressed disappointment.
"This is the third or fourth increase in two years, and it's high time our city sends a message to Adelphia that the rates are going too high," Padlo said.
He urged aldermen to vote the extension down and suggested that alternative cable services may be available.
City Attorney M. Mark Howden explained that the contract is unrelated to consumer cable rates and that postponing action on the extension will not change them. The two-year extension was proposed to ensure that customers receive uninterrupted cable service while also returning the expired contract back to the negotiating table with Chelsie Communications, Adelphia's parent company.
Council members agreed with Padlo, and the resolution is expected to be discussed in the next Ways and Means Committee meeting.
At the close of the Council session, Padlo said he told Gaska during the public hearing that he opposes a rate increase, adding that he intends to invite Gaska or another company representative to attend the Ways and Means Committee session.
Currently, the city receives as much as $50,000 per quarter in fees from Adelphia under the expired franchise terms. Any contract agreements must be approved by the Public Service Commission.