Township ponders cable channel uses

Township and school to share channel 19

By: Scott Morgan
   FLORENCE — Depending on whom you ask, Channel 19 on the Comcast box could be anything.
   Ask Tom Sahol, assistant township administrator, and he outlines Channel 19 as "a revolving wheel of information" intended to keep Florence residents up to speed with municipal information.
   Mr. Sahol speaks of a community bulletin board that will replace the township newsletter as the official "clearing house" of info on everything from Township Council meeting schedules to the progress of water main projects and leaf collection schedules.
   Eventually, he says, the plan is to combine the cable access channel with an Internet link duplicating the information for residents who do not have access to cable, do not subscribe to Comcast, or might be away on vacation.
   Ask Louis Talarico, superintendent of the Florence Township School District, and he spells out a much more ambitious technological tool built to enhance the community’s relationship with the school system. For him, Channel 19 will be a place where student-crafted programs will air, as will replays of high school sports games, plays, alerts, traffic and weather updates and educational programs to augment the school curriculum.
   "We have to try to … include and involve the community in every possible forum," Dr. Talarico says. "I see the … opportunity to embrace the community."
   For both the township and the school district, Channel 19 will, at least, be a place for information to get out. But what the two sides do with it will largely be up to the limits of imagination and effort.
   At the very basic level, the town and school will share Channel 19 as part of an agreement formalized by the Township Council on Dec. 21. The school board’s version of the agreement is slated for a vote later this month.
   In the meantime, there will be formal meetings between township officials and school officials and representatives from TelView (the company which would provide much of the equipment) and Comcast to nail down the specifics. If all goes well, Mr. Sahol says, the channel could be up and running by early February.
   In the meantime, there’s the matter of money to raise. For the township, most of the $8,000 share of the project will be money taken from the newsletter account, but for the school, money could come from company sponsorships. Dr. Talarico says he is negotiating with a few township businesses, such as Roebling Bank and Waste Management Inc. to help pay for the channel that currently (and historically) has been a largely dormant channel operated sporadically by Burlington County College.
   As it develops, both men say, the channel will ideally shape into a daily depot of news and programming that will both inform and enhance the community.
   "We will have the only channel," Dr. Talarico says, "that will offer all kinds of school information on a daily basis. In a town like this, I think it would be a big boost."