SAUGUS — The Board of Selectmen will be asked Wednesday night to approve approximately $500,000 from an enterprise account to Saugus Cable Television so it can get its new building ready for use.
Voters at a special Town Meeting last month voted to put more than $1 million into the account to pay for construction of a new studio, equipment and six months of operating expenses. Al DiNardo, president of the SCTV board of directors, said the money was generated by ratepayers. Money in the SCTV fund, which DiNardo says is in the vicinity of $1.8 million, is generated by collecting a percentage of cash from residents’ cable bills, DiNardo said. It can only be used for cable purposes, he said.
“We’ve been in the high school, rent-free, since 2006,” he said. “Because of that, and because we’ve held back on spending, we’ve accumulated about $1.8 million in ratepayer money from Comcast.”
The move was made necessary because the high school is being demolished to make way for the new building, which will house grades 7-12. The studio had been housed in the back of the school on Pearce Memorial Drive.
There was no room in the plans for the new middle/high school complex for a new cable studio, DiNardo said.
He said that SCTV has been exploring, for a number of years, what its options were once the high school was torn down.
“We’ve been looking for the past 2½ years on purchasing and renting,” he said. “The rents, we found, were running between $7,000 and $10,000 per month, and to purchase any kind of commercial building is running about $700,000.”
However, DiNardo and the SCTV board found space in the Saugus Historical Society building on Main Street. But it will have to be built out, he said.
“We are going to put a 2,000-square-foot wing on the back of the property, one story, which will give us our studio,” DiNardo said. “Wherever we go, we have to have a studio.”
There will also be some rehab involved in the main part of the building, he said, adding that SCTV would take up a third of the main building, with the historical society using a second third. The final portion of building will be for common use, DiNardo said, including a kitchen and a lobby. He said SCTV has budgeted “about $500,000” for the renovation, and to bring the building up to health codes and make it handicapped accessible.
The board also hopes to use part of that money to purchase new equipment, something DiNardo said is badly needed. The board had been holding off purchasing any equipment because it took the inevitability of leaving the high school into account.”
The reason the board has to ask selectmen to release the money is because the Massachusetts Department of Revenue has mandated that all cable money be put in an “enterprise fund” that is controlled by the board.
“It’s like your father setting up a trust for you,” DiNardo said. “Say you want to pull money out of that trust fund, to buy a house, or something like that. You have to go through channels to get the money. It’s the same thing here.”
The proposal to transfer the money to an enterprise account was passed overwhelmingly last month at Town Meeting.