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Council considers allowing Charter Communications to close Grandview office

GRANDVIEW - The Grandview City Council heard a proposal at last night's meeting to amend Ordinance No. 1611, which deals with the television cable franchise agreement between the city of Grandview and Charter Communications.

Randy Lee, director of operations in Washington state for Charter Communications, told council the reason Charter would like to amend the agreement is due to the fact they would like to close down the branch office in Grandview.

Current language in the agreement states that Charter, "...shall maintain a conveniently located business office within the city of Grandview which shall be open during all business hours, have a locally listed or toll-free phone number and be so operated that complaints and requests for repairs or adjustments may be received at any time. In addition, the grantee (Charter) shall maintain service during normal business hours for the receipt of sums due by subscribers and shall provide for regular billing of accounts."

What changed, said Lee, is that the Charter office in Grandview was broken into and while waiting for the landlord to make repairs, the office was closed for a month. It was then, said Lee, that it was noticed only two customers made inquiries as to why the office was closed. It was then decided that Grandview could do without a Charter office.

In a letter written to Grandview City Administrator Scott Staples, Lee wrote Charter values its relationship with the city and after giving thought to the overall viability and effectiveness of the local office, Charter had decided it could serve its Grandview customers just as effectively in the absence of a local office.

Charter will offer a local third party bill payment station in the community. A 24 hour, seven days a week toll-free customer service number will be offered that will allow customers to request a service call, equipment pick up, make a payment by phone, question their bill or request additional services.

The local Yakima City office will now be the central office for Grandview and Sunnyside.

"In essence, we are now never closed," Lee told the council.

Grandview Councilman Mike Bren told Lee he thought it was complicated to communicate with Charter employees on the phone and noted how easy it was to visit the office if a problem arose.

He also expressed surprise that only two customers inquired as to why the office had closed, noting there was no one there to take complaints.

Lee told the council it was really two issues that fueled the closure. The safety of having a single employee at the office and the fact the office was just not cost effective for Charter to keep open.

"We have spent millions of dollars building up our infrastructure here," Lee said. "We do not want to lose any customers."

If the council agrees to the amendment at the Monday, May 19 council meeting, Grandview will lose approximately $30,000 in franchise fees paid by Charter Communications.

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