Citing a projected financial shortfall in 2021, members of the local Cable Advisory Board voted Thursday night to terminate the contract of Madison TV15 Executive Director and Station Manager Aaron Paul Wood and take on those duties by becoming a working board while relying on a couple of board members with video production skills to operate the public access channel until additional funding can be identified.
The move came after the board had previously met in executive session and apparently reached a conclusion that eliminating the agency’s largest salary — and biggest budget expense — was the preferred way to address a projected shortfall of more than $15,000 this year.
Wood, who has been with Madison TV15 for 16 years including interim station manager and then station manager last year with a salary of $30,000 per year, offered to take a pay cut to help offset the budget shortfall but the board instead opted to eliminate his position despite noting that he has been an asset to the operation.
“This is hard ... but looking at the budget there is no way that we can support it,” CAB President Debbie Kroger said of Wood’s salary. “It’s nothing to do with job performance. Aaron has done an amazing job,” she added. “This is all financial.”
The shortfall is due in part to the uncertainty of what the City of Madison will contribute to the operation in the future. The city has asked Madison TV15 to realign its focus to provide information and promotion of the local communities socially and economically and update its interlocal agreements to resolve some ongoing questions about the organization and how it relates to the governmental units that provide the funding.
The city went so far as to break with the organization recently and buy equipment and begin stream its own webcasting and video promotions while asking TV15 to vacate the basement offices it has used as a base of operation in Madison City Hall for many years.
Kroger said that with three funding sources —$12,000 each from Jefferson County and the City of Madison and $11,500 from Hanover — there is simply more money going out than coming in and with significant equipment needs plus relocation and rent, the group can no longer afford a station director when board members can take on some of those responsibilities by becoming a working board.
The plan was to continue paying the camera operators who attend public meetings and create the content that is then streamed or broadcast on the two local cable channels assigned to Madison TV 15 and invest money in replacing outdated and malfunctioning equipment but to do both of those would require letting Wood go.
Wood urged the board to accept his offer to take a pay cut so that he could remain on staff to continue coordinate programming and continue his vision for Madison TV15. He said all the camera operators tendered their resignations after learning about his termination.
“As it stands there is no staff at the station. The board is now a working board,” Wood said. “Last night I was told to cease all work on my part and clear personal items ... Everything that happened last night will adversely effect the community.”
Kroger said she hopes TV15 can continue to webcast public meetings and events of local interest but there may need to be a break to refocus and rebrand the product before moving forward. Finding other sources of revenue would also be a priority moving forward.
The board formed a committee Thursday night to begin laying the groundwork for some of that change with Denise Buxton, Lori Hedges, Debbie Crawford, Emilee Roberts and Wayne Kyle serving. All but Kyle are board members and both Hedges and Crawford have backgrounds in video production.
A combination of melting snow and heavy rainfall has flooded streams and rivers in Kentucky and other states to the northeast with all that water eventually hitting the Ohio River to pass through communities in the Courierarea on that major waterway.
The Ohio, steadily rising for days, finally started jumping its banks this week with several roads along the river blocked by high water and a few residents of campsites forced to pull out or evacuate as water threatened or began entering their homes.
Wilbur Lawson, of Milton, Kentucky, stood at the door of the camper he calls home Thursday as flood waters inched closer to the doorway. He was gathering a few belongings after already calling for help in evacuating what would soon be a sinking ship. Later, he sat on dry land, nearly surrounded by flood waters, emptying muddy water out his cowboy boots after wading from his home. Nearby, a mole, had surfaced from the damp ground and was also heading uphill to dryer land.
“I got out just in time,” Lawson, 55, said of his damp departure. “I’ve got no place to go but I’ve got some friends so maybe I’ll find a place to stay.”
Lawson has lived in the camper on School House Road in Milton about three years but been in the community much longer — long enough to see water much higher than this week’s. He noted that a neighbor had pulled out his mobile home the night before but his camper was left stranded after someone had stolen the wheels and tires.
Trevor Morrow, a Madison Consolidated High School student who lives in Milton, was helping Lawson carry his belongings to higher ground. He said he’d help anyone in a similar situation and with the water expected to rise another 3 to 8 inches he might just get that chance.
Several streets in downtown Milton were flooded and the sewage treatment plant, located safely on higher ground, was cut off and reachable only by boat. Across the river in Madison, large portions of Vaughn Drive were underwater as well as the English gardens at the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site overlooking the river.
Further downriver, roads in the area of Hanover Beach were also under water and upstream toward Vevay, State Road 56 was blocked by water at Patton’s Creek, taking away the preferred route for commuters as well as ambulances trying to get from Vevay to King’s Daughters Hospital in Madison.
According to Tom Moore, Switzerland County EMA director, the flooding is far less than many years but the water came up surprisingly fast.
“It raised very quickly,” Moore said. “So fast that it kind of caught us off guard.”
Jefferson County Emergency Management Director Troy Morgan noted that the surprise was that forecasts kept being revised higher and higher.
“To my knowledge and what I have been told, there is more water than we thought there was going to be,” Morgan said, adding the original crest forecast was for 450 feet but it was eventually increased to 452.8 feet.
Andrew Stark, DES director for Trimble County, said the biggest concern right now is blocked roads and keeping motorists from trying to drive through safety barriers.
“The water isn’t moving, so it’s stagnant and no worries there,” Stark said. “However, if the road is gone under there you’ll sink like an anchor.”
One motorist driving through shallow water in downtown Milton Wednesday was apparently unable to determine the edge of the roadway and put her vehicle head first in a ditch filling with water. She and two children made it out safely, but the vehicle, still stuck in the ditch, was almost entirely under water by Thursday afternoon.
Flooding and high water throughout Jefferson County had local officials asking residents to exercise caution at Friday morning’s County Commissioners meeting.
“I encourage you if you see water across the road, you do not want to drive in that water,” Jefferson County Surveyor Mike Pittman said.
Morgan said the Ohio River is expected to crest after dark Friday at 452.8 feet — at 7:30 a.m. Friday the river was at 452.3 feet.
“I am a little concerned about that because they have extended (the forecast) over and over again since the onset,” said Morgan. “I hope that forecast of 452.8 holds ... We’re ready and prepared if we need to do anything else, but hopefully we’re getting ready to start over the hump and back down the other side shortly.”
Hanover Town Board tentatively awarded a contract for paving 17 streets at its meeting Tuesday with work to begin over the next few months.
Julie Berry, senior marketing executive of Midwestern Engineers Inc., was in attendance to oversee the bid opening at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting.
“We got some good bids tonight,” said Berry.
She said Midwestern Engineers recommended the contract be awarded to the “apparent low bidder” Dave O’Mara Contractor Inc. of North Vernon “ contingent upon review by Midwestern Engineers.”
“It was very close, so we need to double-check and triple-check,” Berry said, before a motion for approval was made without specifying the name of the low bidder.
O’Mara’s bid was $264,917 while Wingham Paving Inc. of Charlestown offered a bid of $273,638.25, a difference of about $9,000. Other bids were from All Star Paving of Seymour at $335,265.05, Sedam Contracting, LLC, of Hanover at $341,873.40, and E&B Paving of Clarksville at $357,000.
Money for the paving projects will come from a Community Crossing Grant that was awarded to the Town of Hanover earlier this year.
In other business, the Board:
• Discussed the use of ghost graphics on the patrol car of Hanover Town Marshal Shane Caldwell. Ghost graphics are low visibility graphics used to mark law enforcement vehicles that provide some camouflage for law enforcement
“You are our police officers. I want the people to know,” said board member Denise Buxton.
“When you drive by, I want people to know that is our Hanover police car,” so if people need help, they will know that there is a police officer around, board member Debbie Kroger agreed
Board president Kenny Garrett gave Caldwell permission to have the graphics redone for the police car.
• Board member Treva Shelton asked that Caldwell be on the contact list used by the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency. She noted that Hanover officials were recently left out of a county-wide EMA meeting about a winter storm warning in mid-February, and she wants to ensure Hanover is included in the future.
•Lee Kilgore, of Hanover Recovery AA, met with the board about securing a meeting space for that group in Hanover. He said the group has been meeting for several years at the Hanover Volunteer Fire Department but that was discontinued in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, and they have been unable to return there. Since then they have met at Mount Zion United Methodist Church but he said “we would like to get back into town.”
Kilgore said six to eight regularly attend the meetings three days per week, but he thinks more people could be helped if they were meeting in town. Garrett said he will work with them to find a location to meet in town.
• Approved $84,550 for American Pump Repair and Service to upgrade the auger at the sewer treatment plant. Clerk-Treasurer Keith Mefford noted the current auger has been in use since 1998, and the life expectancy for a pump is about 18 years. Rather than rebuild what they have, he thinks it makes better sense buy new and upgrade the auger.
• Shelton praised Scott Williams, superintendent of Streets and Utilities, for work done during recent snowstorms. “Great job on the roads during that weather. I heard from a lot of people saying it was the best they’d seen.”
• Approved $6,295 purchase for nine lights for the city park. “We got the grant for amphitheater, and in that it required us to get some lighting,” said Mefford. He noted that “lighting is clearly an issue for the park” overall and is much needed.
• Approved a $2,445 contract with Crossman Fire and Safety for repair system and annual fees for maintenance and monitoring the Hanover Community Building.
• Approved $600 for two benches along the community park trail with plans to seek sponsorships to locate more benches in the park. “We just think get a couple out there, then get it going,” said Mefford.
• Approved $9,400 for a trap rake to be used on the grounds of Hanover Park for re-conditioning fields.
• Approved $3,500 to Keystone for networking electric meter readers, along with a $715 annual fee. “We have already budgeted for the infrastructure of the meters,” Mefford said. “This is just part of it.”
• Heard a report by Mefford concerning a Safe Haven Baby Box that will be placed at Hanover Fire Department. The unit — one was located in Madison last year — legally permits a mother in crisis to safely, securely and anonymously surrender their newborn baby if they are unable to care for it.
“The thought of this ever happening in my community breaks me down mentally, but it clearly happens,” said Mefford, who noted it is “a lot safer than a baby getting left somewhere else out there. Immediately after that door is opened, it’s reported instantly.”
There is a $500 monitoring fee for a Safe Haven Baby Box, which Mefford said the fire department plans to pay through fundraisers. However, Mefford also sought approval for the town to pay the fee in the event the fire department is unable to do so.
Board members said they supported the project but had some concerns about liability and other questions. “We’re for it, we’re willing to do what can to help it. We just need to know more about,” said Garrett.