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Council has harsh words for Comcast rep

SoVaNow.com / July 03, 2014
South Boston Town Council members, with support from the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, took to task Paul Comes, director of government and regulatory affairs for Comcast.

Council members on Monday night asked for Comes to provide answers about the closing of the local Centerville Comcast office on June 30.

“I’ve had more criticism from my constituents about Comcast than anything else we’ve dealt with over the years,” said veteran Councilman Coleman Speece.

Comes told Council members that his company had made the decision to close the local office after seeing a decrease in walk-in traffic with fewer customers coming in to pay their bills.

“We offer different ways for them to pay now — with credit cards, online, email, websites, and checks,”

Comes told the Council. He added, “We listen to our customers.” Speece quickly responded, “This is not all about paying bills. This is about customer service. I can’t swallow your rhetoric. Our people feel betrayed, and they are not happy.”

Mayor Ed Owens pointed out that people will have to drive to Danville to have a face-to-face conversation with someone if they need services.

“This is not conducive to customers who work from 9 to 5. We had promises from you, but it seems we were duped,” Owens said, referring to the 15-year franchise agreement the Town made with Comcast back in 2010.

“ I will tell you this — if I’m still on Council when your franchise agreement comes up again, I’m going to be the most negative man you’ve seen,” he said.

Owens continued to question Comes about who makes the final decision on office closures, and sought to get the name of the individuals responsible for the decision. He also asked Comes why he did not come to Council prepared to answer these questions.

Council member Bill Snead also expressed his dissatisfaction with Comcast. “I do not think you have lived up to your agreement,” Snead said, noting that he had left Comcast two years ago and gone to DirecTV.

Owens then recognized County Supervisor Doug Bowman, who was a member of the audience. Bowman had come to the meeting to deliver a resolution earlier passed by the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, asking that the office remain open.

Bowman remarked that Halifax County Comcast customers are not happy, and told Comes that announcing the closure of the office does not preclude the company’s doing the right thing and leaving it open.

Bowman also told Comes that it didn’t make him feel any better to find that his monthly Comcast bill had increased by $20 at the same time the office closure was announced.

Closing this office, he said, means that both residential and business customers must go to Danville to get equipment when they need it.

Bowman said he had checked the Comcast website and found that not only Halifax County customers would be affected but also Comcast customers in both South Hill and Chase City are referred to the South Boston office.

“They, too, will have to travel quite a distant for service,” he said.

Bowman told Comes that he had left messages for two employees listed on the Comcast website, but had received no responses to his calls.

“How far up the line do we have to go to talk to the person who makes these decisions?” he asked, adding “we don’t need [to talk with] a director of governmental affairs, we need the business manager who makes these decisions.”

He recommended that Comcast could, at a minimum, keep the local office open on a part-time basis to serve local residential and business customers.

Snead suggested that those office hours might be from 2 to 7 p.m. to allow people who work various shifts to use the local office.

Following the meeting, Bowman said that he had little hope of seeing the office re-opened but he hopes to stay in contact with Comes to at least work out some arrangement for equipment swap-outs so that customers will not have to travel to Danville just for that.

In other business Monday evening, Council approved its 2014-2015 budget with general fund expenses of $9.177 million.

Also approved were the fee and tax rates for the coming year, which included a new $75-per-hour rental fee for the use of the Washington Coleman Community Center with a refundable deposit fee of $200.

Two other new fees include a $200 permit for those who sell precious metals and gems, and a $75 fee for a fireworks permit.

Council also heard from Rev. John Eure of Ash Avenue Baptist Church, who explained that the week of Sept. 7-13 has been declared “Operation Inasmuch Week” during which time residents are reminded to carry out special acts of kindness for their neighbors and fellow man.

The event is being sponsored by the churches of the Dan River Baptist Association.

Council also recommended approval of the town’s $50,000 grant for Miller Homes, which is purchasing and fully renovating the Fairmont Apartments. Members recommended that the agreement should protect the Town’s investment, and include a phrase dealing with the sale or transfer of assets should it take place before the 20-year loan agreement is completed.

Finance Director Erle Scott reported that all sources of the town’s revenue had exceeded budgeted amounts except for real estate tax collections which came in at over 99 percent. The occupancy tax came in some $22,000 over revenue projections and the meals tax brought in $1,156,746 as compared with the $852,093 generated by real estate taxes.





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Comments

Why is it such a surprise to these idiot politicians when businesses flee, when they try to hinder any business that used to try to locate here. No worries, IT WILL get worse before it gets better, I promise. So hang in there politicians, and continue to keep the same old song, Halifax and SoBo don't need no stinking businesses!!!!!!

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I wonder how we manage with DirecTV and DishTV not having local offices? While this does present a problem for the "unbanked", maybe those people shouldn't have Cable TV payments to worry about to begin with.

Comments

Either of you ever tried to work out a problem with Comcast via phone or even online? You wanna talk about an exercise in frustration...

Even face to face will usually take them a couple tries to get it resolved; i.e. I turned in my equipment and cancelled the service at the Danville office and still got bills for three months afterwards. I don't like having to take time off work to go handle mess like that, but it's what I ended up doing- twice! 3rd time was the charm, after I had lost any charm I might have had.

Now, folks here will have to drive 30 miles (or in case of points east, farther) and wait forever, because there is rarely more than one CS window open in the Danville office, they are slow as molasses in winter, and it will never occur to anyone there to add staff to handle the increased traffic.

Comcast, like many conglomerates, is now too big and unwieldy to be efficient- and it shows.


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