Saugus Town Meeting members voted to allocate $550,000 from the PEG access enterprise fund to construct a new studio for Saugus Community Television in the Historical Society building.

Saugus Community Television, Inc. will have a new home at the Saugus Historical Society building.

Town Meeting members voted 31-4 to allocate $550,000 from the PEG access enterprise fund to construct a new cable access studio at 30 Main St.

The plan, architect Beth McDougal said, is for SCTV and the Saugus Historical Society to co-exist in the same building.

A more than 2,000-square-foot addition to the building will be used for the SCTV facility, McDougal said. The Saugus Historical Society will continue to use its existing space and there will be a common area shared by the two nonprofit organizations, she noted.

McDougal informed Town Meeting members that the garage will be torn down to make way for a conference room. The cable access studio will be soundproofed and feature a work space for video/editing functions, she said.

The addition of air conditioning will allow the historical archives maintained on site to be climatically controlled, McDougal said.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” McDougal said.

SCTV submitted Article 2 on the Sept. 23 special Town Meeting Warrant in an attempt to find a new home for the cable access studio operations.

Over the last two years, SCTV has explored numerous locations to house the cable access studio. Time is running short for the current SCTV studio at Saugus High School that will be demolished after the new High School/Middle School opens in 2020.

“Having a new school built means an end to our location and we need to build a new studio,” SCTV Board of Directors President Al DiNardo said.

DiNardo said SCTV looked into using municipal buildings for the cable access studio, but was told multiple times no structure was available. The board also investigated the possibility of renting or purchasing a building, to no avail, he added.

The Board of Directors is negotiating the final pieces of a lease with the Saugus Historical Society to move to 30 Main St., DiNardo said.

DiNardo has said he would love to see SCTV in its new Main Street home by next July.

No taxpayer money is being used to pay for the $550,000 project to build the cable access studio, DiNardo said. The funding comes from Comcast ratepayers, he explained.

At last check, there was $1.8 million in Comcast ratepayer money available to cover the expense for the construction project, DiNardo said.

That $1.8 million is a direct result of SCTV not having to pay rent over the last dozen years with the studio operating out of Saugus High School, according to DiNardo.

 

Town Meeting deliberation

Town Meeting member Bill Brown questioned if Town Meeting has the authority to appropriate money for a nonprofit such as SCTV.

“I firmly believe we don’t need to be involved in this,” Brown said.

Brown suggested referring the article back to its maker.

Town Counsel John Vasapolli informed Town Meeting that state law allows communities to establish an enterprise fund for cable access studios.

In fact, Vasapolli pointed out, earlier this year Town Meeting members voted to create such an enterprise fund for SCTV.

Brown withdrew his motion to refer the article back to its maker, though he stressed he was still uncomfortable with the funding request.

Another Town Meeting member, Steve DiVirgilio, expressed concern that SCTV still needs to file tax returns for multiple years and be reviewed by an independent certified public accountant.

“I would disclose you are a few years behind with tax returns,” DiVirgilio said, adding that SCTV could see its nonprofit status revoked if there are no tax returns filed for three years.

DiNardo said SCTV is filing its tax returns and has undergone an audit.

SCTV has operated as three different corporations in recent years and experienced a lot of turmoil, DiNardo said.

The SCTV Board of Directors has done a good job of stabilizing operations at a cable access station that weathered many political storms over the last decade, DiNardo contended.

Town Meeting members also voted 32-2 to appropriate $275,000 from the PEG access enterprise fund to purchase equipment for the cable access studio. Additionally, Town Meeting members voted to use $215,088 from the PEG access enterprise fund to cover the cost of the SCTV operating budget from Jan. 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020.

The SCTV Board of Directors and staff thanked the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, Town Meeting members and the entire Town of Saugus for assuring a future location for the cable access station.

"The Board of Directors and staff have and will continue to work diligently on ensuring that the Town of Saugus will have a state-of-the-art facility for the future of its residents," SCTV said in a statement.