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Board of Commissioners approves loan for Community Media Center

The Community Media Center will upgrade its equipment from analog to digital and make other improvements, after the nonprofit secured a loan of approximately $952,000. The loan received unanimous approval Thursday during an open session of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners.

The organization initially requested $2.5 million from the county over a three-year period, but the organization decided to alter their request after meeting with commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, and Richard Weaver, R-District 2, according to Rothschild.

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Marion Ware, executive director of the CMC, said she was "thrilled" with the decision. "Will it take more? Yes, it will take more," Ware said. "But all things that are worth it do."

"This enables us and gets us back to being able to provide core services. Beyond that we're going to have to look for grants and partners," Ware said.

Weaver said the organization, which operates the county's Public, Education and Government Access Center as well as five local channels serving Carroll County that broadcast local government meetings and information from Carroll County Public Schools, is "a tremendous value to a lot of the agencies in this county."

But he said the commissioners were initially concerned about the cost of the request.

"Their board came through really big and I was really impressed with their budget that they gave us — that was fantastic," Weaver said.

CMC will use about $500,000 of its own cash reserves to pay for its three-year capital improvement plan, which totals about $1.34 million. The center will borrow the remaining money by rolling an existing $116,000 loan with the county government into a new loan to reduce its annual debt service. CMC will also pay interest on that loan to the county for three years. In the fourth year, the organization will begin amortizing the loan over a 10-year period.

"The net cost to taxpayers, if all goes as planned, will be zero — we should get a little bit of interest from it," Rothschild said. "But it gives them the opportunity to get the capital they need to update their facilities to digital technology."

Rothschild said he was "torqued" when the board voted last month to allocate restricted funds from an agreement with Comcast to nine nonprofits. The commissioners also signed an ordinance last month that made official their 4-1 vote to unrestrict funds accumulated in the cable franchise fund. The move freed money to meet funding requests from nine county nonprofits. Rothschild was the dissenting vote and also opposed signing the ordinance.

Production studio upgrades are planned in a series of three phases, as outlined in the CMC's capital equipment budget for fiscal years 2016 through 2020.

In the first phase in FY16, antiquated and broken equipment in CMC's production studio will be replaced with new high-definition equipment, which is estimated to cost $483,600, according to a CMC presentation on its upgrade plan. In addition, $121,200 will be used to replace aging equipment used to broadcast channels to the public.

In the second phase, to be carried out in FY17, a total of $355,760 is planned to be used to: replace equipment in the production studio; upgrade an audio production studio; upgrade the express studio used for audio recordings and small-scale productions; improve the broadcast signal; acquire field production equipment that is cross-compatible and cost-effective; and upgrade content archive-storage equipment, which the CMC will continue replacing in FY18, according to CMC's budget plan.

In FY18 the CMC will upgrade its production studio; replace content archive/storage equipment; and upgrade editing systems and software to provide digital literacy classes and educational support to the community, which will cost about $376,000, according to the plan.

Times Staff Writer Wiley Hayes contributed to this story.

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