KIMBALL, Tenn. — After more than five years, city leaders in Kimball are tired of haggling with one local cable company to recoup overdue franchise fees.
Blue Bridge Media in nearby South Pittsburg, Tenn., formally known as Trinity Communications, which offers local cable, phone and internet service in Marion County, has paid Kimball required franchise fees only twice since July 2008.
In 2015, Kimball filed a formal complaint with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority after giving the company 90 days to come up with a solution.
"At that time, they contacted our attorney and wanted to work out a payment plan," Mayor Rex Pesnell said.
The company proposed giving Kimball a $1,500 initial payment, and then promised to pay $1,500 each quarter until the debt was resolved.
"We agreed to that, and they made the initial $1,500 payment," Pesnell said. "Then, we never heard no more from them."
City officials determined in January 2016 that Blue Bridge Media owed about $8,000 in overdue franchise fees going back to 2013.
In August 2017, City Attorney Billy Gouger contacted the company again to find out why the quarterly payments hadn't been made.
Company officials asked for an additional 90 days because there was a chance the company was going to be sold.
"We felt like the chance of getting paid would be better if they could do that, so we granted them the extension," Pesnell said. "We've not heard anything back."
The extension period ended last month.
Gouger said filing another formal complaint with the state was the strongest action Kimball could take, for now.
The Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to do so at its meeting Thursday.
"Under the old law, [Kimball] could have revoked the franchise agreement, and they couldn't have done business in the town," Gouger said. "Now, the state is the one that revokes their authority to do business in the town or in the state, in general. So, [Kimball] does not have the same leverage it had before."
He said the town has gotten no response after repeated attempts to contact David Claroni, a representative with the investment company in Connecticut that owns Blue Bridge Media.
Attempts to contact Claroni for comment for this story were unsuccessful, as well.
Gouger said he doesn't think the company's franchise fees are being paid "anywhere" in Marion County.
Some of the company's equipment and real estate in South Pittsburg was about to go into a delinquent tax sale in Marion recently, but he said Blue Bridge Media made a one-year payment, which was enough to keep those items out of the sale at the time.
"But they're still not current on those taxes," Gouger said. "It's a uniform problem that they're having everywhere. They just have a revenue problem."
The only other option Kimball would have to recoup the money would be to file a lawsuit.
"You sue them, you get a judgment, and then you have to try to collect it," Gouger told the board. "I'm not saying forgive it or write it off, but [the board] has to make a decision if it is throwing good money away chasing bad money. You may very well be doing that."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.