Some Grovetown officials hope that Charter Communications' impending bankruptcy will force the cable and phone service provider to pull out of town.
Company officials announced Feb. 12 plans to file a prearranged Chapter 11 bankruptcy by April 1.
Mayor George James said at Monday's city council meeting that he had heard rumors the company will be selling off some of its smaller markets to other cable providers. He hopes the city will be included in one of those sales.
"Charter Communications did contact me today," City Councilman Robert Newman said Monday. "They want to set up a meeting with Grovetown, Harlem and Commissioner (Scott Dean)."
Grovetown and Harlem officials have expressed disappointment with the company's services. Charter provides cable television services to only some Grovetown residents.
"They don't see the viability of expanding here until the homes come in," Grovetown City Councilman Bruce Stoddard said. "They are not very proactive here at all."
City leaders started talks with Charter officials more than seven years ago regarding the projected growth in the city and the importance of expanding the Charter system to accommodate that growth. At that meeting, and others since, Charter officials assured service would improve and expand, but it hasn't, city officials said.
"I've had enough," Grovetown Mayor George James said at a meeting in September with Harlem leaders. "Either (Charter) is going to service (city residents) or move out of the way so someone else can."
Charter invested in the community during the past year by offering faster connection speeds, high definition channels, digital video recorders and other services, Lynne Coker, Charter's director of Government Affairs in Georgia and Alabama, wrote in an e-mail.
"It is not a problem with service," Newman said, adding that when he was running for office, Charter was the most frequent complaint from residents. "It is an issue with getting the service to citizens of Grovetown in the newer developments."
Developers said at the September meeting that Charter officials promised to expand the system as the subdivisions were built but were consistently told there are no funds to expand lines. City officials said Charter declined to accept offers from Georgia Power Co. to share the cost of trenches for new lines as developments were built.
In Senators Ridge subdivision, there is a street where residents on one side have Charter services while residents on the other side don't. Many residents have resorted to satellite dishes, from which the city cannot collect franchise fees.
"It falls back on the city; makes the city look bad, like we're not doing our job," Newman said, contending that when city officials have contacted Charter, they've done small expansions just to appease the complaints.
Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper said developers in his city are experiencing the same problem.
"We very urgently want to do something," Culpepper said. "The builders are getting negative responses. That is unacceptable to us."
Coker said she spoke with the Charter government relations director, who has been in talks with local governments, including Harlem and Grovetown, and Georgia Power, and he's looking into the system along with the construction department.
Newman said city officials have contacted Comcast, which already provides services to schools in Grovetown, to buy out the Charter system, or otherwise serve city residents. But the companies follow what Newman called "gentlemen's agreements" and don't overbuild each other's systems.
The only way another company can provide cable services to city residents is if Charter sells the market infrastructure to another company, Newman said.
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