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OC, West Linn ponder Media Center's future

What would public programming look like in Oregon City and West Linn without the Willamette Falls Media Center?

The public got a glimpse this past week of a potential future lacking Clackamas County-based public media organizations at an Aug. 2 joint work session of the Oregon City Commission and West Linn City Council. Presenting one alternative to WFMC was Bruce Crest of the Metropolitan Area Communication Commission, which runs most of the public programming in Washington County.

MACC has a contract through Comcast, which has the advantage of being able to move large amounts of data over long distances, but the corporation would also require the two cities to move quickly on contracts for next year.

Milwaukie will consider contracting with MACC in the next six months, Crest said, and MACC has also received a request from Happy Valley, which is considering ways to tape its City Council meetings.

But a local backlash is already being mounted against any attempt to switch providers. The Oregon City Chamber of Commerce was among those going on record in support of WFMC after members of the two boards met last month to discuss progress in the media center's financial reporting and program development.

Oregon City resident and WFMC Chair Dan Holladay said the organization was in the process of hiring a financial manager. By July 2012, he said he expects that WFMC would be ready to turn into a federally registered nonprofit, which would need the permission of partnering cities as well.

Thousands of volunteer hours would go to waste, according to Holladay, if West Linn chose to dissolve its side of the intergovernmental agreement.

'This is not something I think is ethical, and I think it hurts our community,' said Adam Klugman, a West Linn resident and longtime producer at the station. 'It would be very disconcerting to me, and I think very disconcerting to other cable customers who value the service to our democracy that WFTV provides, to find that the money we were paying in was somehow being re-appropriated out of convenience.'

Klugman's testimony was part of a video that Holladay showed to both cities decrying the prospect of ending Clackamas County's decades-long tradition of independent programming. Suz Maus, who works for the Oregon City School District, said on the video that she looked forward to continuing to produce community videos with WFMC.

Paul Brockmann, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Oregon City, said he delivers videos of Sunday services to be rebroadcast to those who can't make it to church. Churches can rent cameras from WFTV offices in Oregon City or use their own cameras and have WFTV broadcast the services.

Crest said MACC could also check out equipment to the public, but its nearest facilities are located in Beaverton. West Linn or Oregon City could rent out equipment to qualified members of the public from their city halls or other local public buildings, but it's unclear who would be assigned to this, and negotiations are still in their infancy.

'It would be a shame to have people go all the way out to Beaverton just because we couldn't get our financial house in order,' said West Linn Councilor Teri Cummings.

Following an audit that showed some sloppy accounting at the community access station, West Linn voted to create a new oversight committee, but Oregon City commissioners did not approve it.

'We've been spending all this time talking about what color is the elephant, but we haven't talked about the elephant,' said West Linn Councilor Michael Jones, who is also a member of the cable access board governing WFMC.

Jones said that the board is having trouble developing a budget for the coming year.