Remember the great Fairfax County cable war that finally ended last month to the relief of local politicians and the cheers of citizens who want their sports and movies?
It's not over yet.
County officials discovered yesterday that the Board of Supervisors award of a cable television franchise to Media General Cable of Fairfax County, Inc. is not legally binding because of a technical error in the required public advertisement of the award. The contract will be readvertised, and the board will ratify its original decision on Sept. 13, a county spokeswoman said.
"This is typical of the way the cable thing's been handled from the beginning," said Fairfax state Sen. Adelard L. Brault, lawyer for Fairfax Telecommunications Co., which also bid for the franchise. "It does not surprise me that the thing continues to be screwed up."
The hitch in the franchise award, coming after more than three years of emotional and at times bitter controversy, was not the kind of summer excitement that county or Media General officials were looking for. But they quickly promised that the "technicality" will not delay construction of a cable television system, scheduled to begin within six months.
"It's like an untied shoelace, if you will, but that's all," said Media General spokeswoman Lorraine Foulds.
The county ordinance requires Media General to complete the cable system, which will offer more than 100 channels to subscribers, within five years of the contract signing, which had been set for Sept. 1. Now the signing will be delayed about a month, said county spokeswoman Jean Van Devanter, but Foulds said the delay will not change her company's schedule. Fairfax Telecommunications officials have threatened to sue the county for the award.
The error occurred in the office of the clerk to the board, Van Devanter said, and was discovered yesterday when the clerk received a bill for the ad. The county meant to advertise twice, once for Media General and once for Fairfax Telecommunications, because in July no one knew which company would be selected. Somehow, an aide in the clerk's office forgot to send Media General's name along.
"I'm sure it wasn't an FTC conspiracy," Van Devanter said with a laugh. "I'm sure somebody made an error."