At first blush, the city of Anderson's creation of a television/studio engineer position, approved last week by the board of works, might seem frivolous.
Really? A TV position in a city that needs so much help in economic development, police and fire resources, and parks and recreation programming, facilities and personnel?
But when you give it a little deeper thought, the engineer's position seems defensible. The city has access to cameras and other telecast equipment that had formerly been used at the Ebbert Education Center, and it has a cable channel (Comcast 18; AT&T U-Verse 99) that was officially launched in February 2014.
The "Government and Education TV Access Channel" is a collaboration among the city, Anderson Public Library and Anderson Community Schools. ACS provided the cameras, which would cost about $50,000 to purchase, and the city invested $13,000 in converting unused space at the City Building into a studio.
A handful of city employees have been spending some of their work time helping with the TV effort, and there's a cost to that, too. What could they have been doing to perform their core tasks better if they hadn't been devoting time to TV programming?
The Herald Bulletin and citizens are always pushing local government to be more transparent. So perhaps the salary range of $38,000-$50,000 for the new engineer would be worth it for an engineer to help create educational and informational programming, to help residents better understand and access city services.
Also, ACS students get the opportunity to gain hands-on experience behind and in front of the camera.
The engineer will be responsible for filming and editing promotional shows for the city of Anderson. That's fine, as long as the station doesn't become a platform for Mayor Kevin Smith's re-election campaign. That would be an illegal use of taxpayer dollars.
The other caveat here is that local municipal government has a reputation for giving jobs as favors. That should never be the case, and it can't be here. A skilled professional is needed if the position is to be truly worth its cost to taxpayers.
For related news articles, search for "cable television station" at heraldbulletin.com.