Houston City Council today voted 16-1, with Ed Gonzalez opposed, to delay termination of a franchise with TVMAX Houston, LP for one week in order for counsel to negotiate with the company to move forward regarding franchise fees owed to the city and for the company to place funds to repay fees it had not paid since filing a lawsuit against the city into a court registry.
The termination of the franchise was proposed due to TVMAX owing $809,789 in franchise fees to the city.
“TVMAX Houston, LP, doing business as Wavevision, is a City of Houston cable franchise serving residences throughout the city of Houston, comprised predominately of multifamily dwellings,” Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department Director Alfred Moran said. “Under the terms of the franchise, TVMAX is required to pay the city a quarterly franchise fee, a quarterly fee in support of Public, Educational and Governmental programming, and an annual capital contribution. Despite extensive efforts by ARA and the City Attorney’s Office to work with TVMAX, TVMAX has failed to cure its defaults under the franchise and has failed to pay sums due and owing under the franchise totaling $809,789.”
A public hearing was held prior to consideration of the company’s franchise. Attorneys representing the company asked the city council to defer action on the matter, as the company had filed a lawsuit in court denying that the fees were owed to the city, and claiming that the company had in fact overpaid the city. Steve Williard, an attorney representing the company, addressed council regarding the cable company’s position, noting that the city cannot tax Internet services.
“TVMAX, again, as I’ve said to you, vehemently denies the allegations that it owes $800,000,” Williard said. “It has presented evidence to the city, and if the council were to read the franchise agreement that the city granted, the franchise agreement itself clearly spells out that there will be a tax on Internet services. The federal government has pre-empted that, the United Supreme Court has confirmed that no municipality has not right to tax Internet services.” Listen (3 minutes, 40 seconds)
WIlliard said the company has put forward that the city owes $122,000 in credit due to fees it claims were charged on Internet services.
Discussion also ensued regarding whether the company contacted the city concerning the issue of the money owed through the franchise fee. Houston City Attorney David Feldman said the company had not attempted to resolve the issue until it was notified the city council was meeting to consider terminating the franchise agreement.
“Despite serial correspondence asking ‘Where are you? What is your position?’, we got total stone silence,” Feldman said. Listen (40 seconds)
Council Member Stephen Costello stated his support for deferring action on terminating the franchise agreement, but that the company place funds into a court registry that it has not paid since filing the lawsuit. Listen (50 seconds)
The city council voted unanimously to appoint Gilda Ramirez to Position Four on the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 23 Board of Directors.
The city council voted 16-1, with Helena Brown opposed, to approve a resolution declaring Directors of Houston Recovery LGC to be “covered persons”.
The city council voted 16-1, with Brown opposed, to approve an agreement with the United States Department of Homeland Security to accept the 2012 Port Security Grant.
The city council voted 16-1, with Brown opposed, to authorize the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security to execute two subrecipient grant agreements with the Texas Department of Public Safety for funding through the FY2012 Homeland Security Grant and the UASI Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Activities Program.
The city council voted 16-1, with Brown opposed, to approve a transfer of $400,000 into the Health Special Revenue Fund for the provision of services under the Care Houston Program.
The city council voted 15-2, with Brown and Oliver Pennington opposed, to approve a $159,684 contract with the Houston Food Bank to increase public awareness of benefits programs to eligible Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants.
The city council voted 16-1, with Brown opposed, to approve a $167,562 contract with Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County for the operation and maintenance of the Homeless Management Information System. Funding for the contract will come from the Emergency Solutions Grant Program.
The city council voted 16-1, with Brown opposed, to approve a $133,415 contract with the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County for planning to support systematic solutions to the problems of homelessness. The funds will come from the Community Development Block Grant Program.
The city council voted 16-1, with Brown opposed, to approve a $50,000 contract with Memorial Assistance Ministries, Inc. for the provision of homeless prevention assistance.
The city council voted 16-0, with Brown out of the room and not voting, to award a construction contract to Jerdon Enterprise, LP for construction projects associated with Glenbrook Park, Phase II and Schwartz Park.
Three items on the agenda were tagged for one week:
- An amendment to increase a maximum contract amount by $200,000 for a contract with Crown Pacific, Inc. for moving and storage of household goods for the Housing and Community Development Department was tagged by Wanda Adams and Andrew Burks;
- An ordinance amending the city’s agreement with Dresser, Inc. for blower replacement parts and repair services was tagged by Jerry Davis and Al Hoang; and
- Award of a $419,164 contract with Carrera Construction, Inc. for the Dow Park Basketball Court and Pavilion restorations at various locations was tagged by Brown.
The city council voted unanimously to delay action for two weeks on approval of a $246,100 additional appropriation for a professional engineering services contract with TRW Engineers, doing business as TSC Engineering for the Braesmont Drive Area Drainage and Improvements Project.
Council Member Larry Green had tagged the item at the October 24 meeting, and requested the item be delayed for two additional weeks.
All other items were approved by unanimous vote. All members were present. Agenda