Kimball officials can't find answers about franchise fees

Kimball officials can't find answers about franchise fees

July 15th, 2012 by Ryan Lewis in News

Kimball City Attorney and Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger

Photo by Ryan Lewis

KIMBALL, Tenn. - City officials recently discovered that one local company hadn't been paying its required franchise fees, but so far they haven't gotten a response concerning the matter.

Trinity Communications in Jasper, Tenn., which offers local cable, phone and Internet service in Marion County, has only paid the city once since July 2008, officials said in June.

A payment of $498.53 was received in April 2011, but officials said no paperwork accompanied the payment, so there was no way to know how Trinity calculated what was owed.

A company's franchise fee is based on the number of customers a company has within a municipality.

At the July meeting of the Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen, City Attorney Billy Gouger said he had tried to contact Trinity General Manager Jim Hunter about the matter twice by phone.

"I've left a couple of messages, but he has not called me back," he said. "His assistant told me he did have my messages and he would get back with me."

Attempts to contact Hunter for comment were unsuccessful.

When he asked if there was anyone else he could talk to about the missing franchise fees, Gouger said he was told it would have to be Hunter.

The board voted unanimously to authorize Gouger to write a "demand letter" to the company and "take further action if we don't get a response."

Kimball Mayor David Jackson estimates Trinity owes the city at least $10,000 in unpaid franchise fees.

"That's enough to write a letter over," Payne said.

Sending a formal letter makes the town's request more official than a phone call, Gouger said.

"Hopefully, there will be no difference [with sending the letter]," he said. "I think it at least makes a record of a formal demand made by the town. All we have right now are phone messages."

"I want to get it shown on record and show them that we're willing to take further action if need be," Alderman Mark Payne said. "I hope it's not needed."

Alderman Johnny Sisk said Trinity's management could be slow to respond since the company has recently been taken over by new ownership.

"I understand they're trying to get everything reorganized," he said. "[Hunter] is trying to get everything in order to take care of everything."