Greenbelt residents "underwhelmed" their City Council at a hearing held Monday to gather public opinion on a proposed cable television system.
Nine residents showed up. No one testified. No one petitioned the council either to build or scrap a cable television system.
The evening's strongest comment was an expression of "skepticism" by one resident.
When Mayor Gil Weidenfeld asked the assembled residents who favored cable television in Greenbelt, four of the nine raised their hands.
According to city staff members, Greenbelt can either wait for the countywide system being set up by the county government, join with other cities to franchise a firm, license its own firm or operate its own system.
Several council members said Greenbelt is in a position to neogitate a good contract with a cable television firm because the city is densely populated over a small area and most utilities are above ground. Greenbelt contains only about 600 single-family homes. The rest of the dwelling units are cooperatives, apartments or condominiums, making stringing cable relatively easy and inexpensive.
Council member Richard Castaldi urged the council not to join the county system. He said the city's density would cut installation costs and add to profits. If the city licenses its own system, 3 percent of gross profits are returned to city coffers. City officials estimated that would bring the city $15,000 to $40,000 annually.
If the city joins the county-operated system, it would receive a prorated share of profits after administrative and operating costs are paid. If the city joined the county system, Castaldi argued, "all our profits would be eaten up."
But Paul Sinkovic, a resident of the Greenbriar Condominium, wondered, "I just question . . . how a city the size of Greenbelt could support a system in and of itself?"
At one time, the council had hoped that cable television could help the city save an old movie theater for use as a cultural arts center. Council members had hoped that local studios promised by most cable television firms could lease space in the theater. With the rent paid, the theater would also be available for plays, art shows, concerts and films.
But Mayor Weidenfeld said that initial inquiries to cable television firms brought responses that were "somewhat vague and not tremendously encouraging."
Darwin Beck, 4 Maplewood Court, questioned whether monthly fees charged for cable television service, ranging up to $15 for different levels of service, would provide enough income for a firm to justify outfitting a local studio. "Let me just express one citizen's skepticism about all that," he said. "I think (you may be) selling the citizens of Greenbelt something they are not going to get delivered."