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Charter rescinds request to change franchise agreement

GRANDVIEW - After running into some opposition from Grandview City Council members not happy with Charter Communication closing its store in the city, the cable company has rescinded a request to amend the franchise agreement it has with the city.

At the May 5 council meeting Randy Lee, director of operations in Washington state for Charter Communications, told the Grandview City Council the firm would like to amend the agreement so the cable company could shut down its branch office.

The language in the original agreement states Charter shall maintain a business office in the city, have a locally listed or toll-free phone number and be operated so that complaints and requests for repairs or adjustments may be received at any time.

The Charter office in Grandview was broken into and citing employee safety, the firm decided to close the office.

Charter then offered Grandview a third-party bill payment station. A 24-hour, seven days a week toll-free customer service number was offered to receive service calls, and to handle equipment pick-up and the ability to receive a payment by phone or take questions about a customer's bill.

"In essence, we are now never closed," Lee said at the time.

Some council members weren't pleased, most notably Councilman Mike Bren. He told representatives from Charter the customer service number wasn't as easy to navigate as council was being told, relaying his own experiences with the company, when he was cut off three times. It was also brought to Charter's attention that they still had five years left on their agreement with the city.

A decision to amend the franchise agreement was put on hold until city staff could speak with Charter officials.

At last night's city council meeting in Grandview, City Administrator Scott Staples told the council that Charter had rescinded its request and will not re-open its branch office in Grandview.

A letter written to Staples from Lee was given to council members. It the letter Lee stated by offering a third-party payment station and a 24-hour, seven day a week customer service number, Charter is fulfilling all of its requirements to the franchise agreement and are not in breach.

Grandview City Attorney Jack Maxwell said the changes probably meet the letter of the law but certainly don't meet the intent of the wording when the agreement was forged. Nonetheless, he said, it wouldn't be worth the city's time or money to pursue litigation.

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