Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 31, 2014

‘That was the first lie’

Councilor upset over local cable service outages
By Andy Hallman | Dec 06, 2012
Lee Grassley, senior manager of government relations for Medicacom, addressed the Washington City Council about recent complaints of service outages in the city.

Washington City Councilor Bob Shellmyer expressed his dissatisfaction with a local cable company during the council meeting Wednesday. Shellmyer said he and many of his constituents in Ward 3 (southeast part of town) have experienced long service outages of their Mediacom cable, phone and Internet.
Mediacom representative and senior manager of government relations, Lee Grassley, was on hand to answer Shellmyer’s questions. A few members of the audience also voiced their complaints about Mediacom’s service.
Shellmyer detailed the problems he and others have had with Mediacom over the past two months. He said he was especially irked about an incident that occurred six weeks ago when all his Mediacom services, television, phone and Internet, went down. He called Mediacom to report the problem, and a customer service representative told him the company would send a technician to repair the problem in seven to 10 days.
“I told them I thought that was unacceptable,” he said. “They said, ‘You’re the only one calling in.’ That was the first lie.”
Shellmyer asked a few of his neighbors and they told him their service was also out and that they had called Mediacom.  
“I called Mediacom again, and they said I was the only one calling in. I said that’s not true. That’s when I started to get quite upset,” Shellmyer said.
Shellmyer found 12 or 13 people who suffered a service outage that day. He called Mediacom again, and this time the company promised to send a crew to Washington within 24 hours.
Shellmyer drove to where the crew was working and asked questions of the technicians.
“They seemed offended I was there asking questions, so that I could answer to the people who come to my door,” he said.
Shellmyer believed the problem had been fixed so he returned to his house, whereupon his wife informed him that their cable was still out.
“I said, ‘Excuse me?’”
Shellmyer called Mediacom once more and learned that the company would have to schedule another appointment for the crew within 7 to 10 days.
“That’s when I came unglued,” he said.
Shellmyer said he made several phone calls to the company’s headquarters in New York to complain about the service.
Grassley apologized that Shellmyer and his neighbors had to go through that.
“Your situation was regrettable, and it was our fault,” he said.
Grassley said that just as the drought was hard on the city’s water plant, it was also hard on his cable plant, which could explain why some of the wires failed.   
“The failure you had is a failure that happens less than 1 percent of the time,” he said. “The failure we had was on 45 feet of feeder cable. Those things never go bad, but one did this time.”
Grassley thanked Shellmyer for his work on the issue and for bringing it to Grassley’s attention. He said his company is transitioning to “proactive maintenance” rather than reactive maintenance.
The council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to establish sidewalk cafés in the city. According to the ordinance, a sidewalk café refers to a dining area on a public sidewalk that is adjacent to a restaurant.
The councilors made several amendments to the ordinance before approving it for the first time. A few points of discussion were on what, if any, fence should be around sidewalk cafés and what months of the year they should operate.
Councilor Merlin Hagie said he was against putting a chain-link fence around an outdoor café, and that a decorative rope would be sufficient. Shellmyer and councilor Bob Shepherd said they didn’t want to drill holes in the sidewalk in order to anchor such a fence if one were necessary.
The original ordinance allowed the cafes to operate from April 15 to Oct. 15. Councilor Fred Stark said that was too short. The council approved an amendment to extend the months of operation from April 1 to Nov. 15.
The council must approve the ordinance twice more before it becomes part of the city code.
In other news, water plant director Chad McCleary gave a report on the water plant in which he highlighted several problems with the water it was producing.
McCleary said the water plant is not making as much water as it did when it opened in 1993. In 1993, the plant produced 62,000 gallons an hour and now only produces 44,000 gallons, which was not enough to meet demand last summer and which prompted the city to issue conservation orders. McCleary said the plant uses more electricity than before even though it’s producing less water, and the quality of the water is also worse.
Washington had fairly “hard” water, meaning high in mineral content, even in 1993. The water has only become harder over time, McCleary said. He said the water is 85 percent harder today than 20 years ago. He said this has forced city staff to spend more money on chemicals to treat the water.

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