CHESTER – Lenny Stein, longtime member and until last week the chair of the cable committee, has resigned his position in protest over the actions of selectmen Rich LeBlanc and Joe Castricone in their roles on the committee.
Stein read a lengthy letter into the record of the Thursday, Jan. 9 selectmen’s meeting to explain his disagreement with actions taken by the other two members of his board, and said he could not in good conscience continue volunteering.
“If I’m going to be a part of a committee, I need to know that I can trust the members of it. Unfortunately Mr. Castricone and Mr. LeBlanc have shown that I can trust neither of them,” said Stein.
The committee has struggled for the last couple of years to keep operations going, shedding members steadily.
Much of Stein’s letter spoke to his belief that with little interest in the local access cable stations, it didn’t make much sense to make significant equipment upgrades, something considered by the committee as it works through a contract renegotiation with Comcast. Local public access cable stations like Chester’s operate on franchise fees collected by the local cable provider.
Stein argued that he made suggestions to the board that could sidestep tens of thousands of dollars of unneeded equipment upgrades paid for by resident cable ratepayers, and that the committee as a whole had agreed to avoid those additional purchases. But, Stein said, Castricone and LeBlanc then made the decision, unbeknownst to him, that they include those costs in the contract with Comcast.
Stein spoke of 20 years of history with the station and his desire through that time to be frugal with operations. Community involvement has been very low at times, but Stein said his love of the work kept him at it. He noted that he felt he had some good ideas that could help breathe life back into the station for little to no cost.
Stein noted that until there was a marked interest from the community, there was no need to raise franchise fees to upgrade the station, “or to paraphrase, I was vehemently opposed to ‘building it in hopes that they will come,’” said Stein.
Stein stated that he left the committee’s most recent meeting with the understanding that the group had specifically decided not to ask Comcast for a loan to make capital equipment upgrades. Stein said that as he understood it, there were five items the board agreed to direct their attorney to seek through negotiation.
“It was quite a shock to me to learn that Mr. Castricone added to the attorney’s list $40,000 for capital improvements,” he said. “This money would be paid back by ratepayers over the next several years in the form of increased franchise fees. I was neither apprised of nor am in agreement with the sixth item.
“I am in fact truly disgusted that a decision like this could be arbitrarily made by two members of the committee without even considering or consulting the chairman of that committee,” said Stein.
Following Stein’s resignation, selectman Jack Cannon asked for an explanation from the two selectmen named in the letter. Castricone and LeBlanc both refused to comment on the matter, Castricone saying that he wouldn’t say anything unless it was in a private session.
Cannon looked to chairman Steph Landau for an answer but Landau sidestepped the issue, saying he was not aware of Stein’s decision until that night.
The board then quickly moved on to other business without further comment.