According to the town records, Joe Dermody is a "Media Specialist." But a more practical definition of his duties would describe him as the de facto director of Tewksbury Public Access Television ... if such a position existed.
On Tuesday, Dermody stepped out from behind his camera and sat down to speak with the Board of Selectmen about recent problems that have arisen, making it for residents to have access to the limited public access cable programming that is available.
The biggest problem, at present, is at the new Tewksbury High School. According to Dermody, broadcasting live from the high school is impossible for the moment because cable wiring is being shifted from the street, where it has run previously, to the school itself. Dermody said there is no timetable for the completion of that project.
Until the project is completed, the town's Education Channel will be offline. With no Public Access Channel, that leaves just the Government Channel.
But a second problem arose when the signal was lost for the Wynn School, where School Committee meetings are held. According to Dermody, Comcast notified residents that its signal routine was changing and that everyone needed a "black box." However, the town not notified, so Wynn wasn't given a black box.
"We've tried to rewire the Wynn School for live broadcast but we couldn't get the Black Box to work," said Dermody, adding that there had been some difficulty dealing with the point person for the town's contract at Comcast but that he hoped the problem would be fixed by the next school committee meeting.
The talk of problems with the cable service led to discussion by the board regarding possible re-formation of a Cable Advisory Board in anticipation of the next round of negotiations with the town's cable providers. At present, the town is in the midst of a 10-year contract with Comcast (Chs. 8 and 22) and a 15-year deal with Verizon (Chs. 33 and 34).
Town administrator Richard Montuori said the town would be looking into entering into cable negotiations in about six months and that now was the time to begin considering a course of action.
Selectman Doug Sears said it was frustrating to see neighboring communities with vibrant Public Access Cable operations compared to what Tewksbury has.
"When you get to Tewksbury and there isn't any," he said. "You're not thinking 'why isn’t there any?' but 'how can we get it going?'"
Selectman Todd Johnson said the immediate concern was making sure the public was kept informed of the actions of their town government.
"It's incumbent upon us to make sure there is cable access for town government meetings," he said.
In other business:
- Selectmen signed the Election Warrant for the Nov. 6 Election.
- Selectmen set Trick or Treating hours for Oct. 31 from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Selectmen approved a one-day liquor license for Mahoney's Garden Center.
- Town Manager Richard Montuori announced a contract had been signed with Architect Kaffee Kang of Kang and Assoc. for the design of the renovations for Town Hall.
- At around 7:20 p.m., the meeting was momentarily interupted as Town Hall shook for approximately five seconds due to the impact of a 4.0 magnitude earthquake centered in Maine.