published Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Jasper and Kimball officials can't get answers on franchise fees

JASPER, Tenn. -- City administrators in Jasper and Kimball are joining in an effort to force a bankrupt telecommunications company to pay franchise fees the cities claim are overdue.

Trinity Communications in Jasper, which offers local cable, phone and Internet service in Marion County, has only paid franchise fees to each city once since July 2008, officials said.

Jasper Mayor Billy Simpson said communication with Trinity's management officials has been nearly impossible over the past three months.

"I got a report that [a Trinity official] said he had been to see me and talked to me to work something out," he said. "I can't even get him to return a phone call. He's never talked to me, and I reported that immediately to [City Attorney Mark Mr. Raines]."

In July, Kimball Mayor David Jackson said Trinity owes the city at least $10,000 in unpaid franchise fees.

A company's franchise fee is based on the number of customers that company has within a municipality, officials said. Simpson said there is no way to know how much is owed to Jasper because the only payment they received in the last four years did not include a report breaking down the payment numbers.

"We can't get any numbers from [Trinity] concerning how many people they have on their system," he said.

Attempts to contact Trinity General Manager Jim Hunter for comment have been unsuccessful.

Raines said he received notice recently that Trinity has cleared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"If they're out of [bankruptcy], they should be back in operation. We need to get franchise money coming in."

Jasper has probably lost whatever funds it was owed when Trinity went through bankruptcy, Raines said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com

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