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New Richmond gears up for battle over cable franchise

New Richmond is preparing for a possible fight over its cable television franchise.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to begin the process of calling for proposals from any cable companies who might want to serve the community.

The city has been negotiating with Rapid Cable for months on a new contract, but little progress has been made, according to City Clerk Joe Bjelland.

The company's already-extended contract ended in February, and the city demanded a response to contract change requests before May 1.

Bjelland said the company's new president personally promised a timely response, but none came.

Now company officials are saying the contract negotiations have to wait until a new general manager starts after May 15, Bjelland reported.

Bjelland said customer complaints about Rapid Cable have been numerous over the past year, including lack of staffing at its New Richmond office and poorly buried cable.

All those factors together have forced the city to take action, he said.

"We're done negotiating unless they meet all of our demands in our franchise agreement," he said. "We've given them enough delays."

Council member Jim Zajkowski said Rapid has had four new general managers over a short period of time and each makes promises they don't keep.

"Every time they say they're going to do something and nothing happens," he said. "They've been sort of jerking us around. We're getting tired of it."

Zajkowski said the company has been making progress with improved service and products, but for every step forward there are two steps back.

"They've got some good things to offer, but they have to get their act together," he said.

The council approved the motion to begin the formal proposal process, although Bjelland said that doesn't mean the city will necessarily continue down that road if Rapid officials become more cooperative.