County Beat: August 31, 2018

RBC I The county commissioners agreed Monday to begin proceedings to terminate their contract with Local Access Internet (LAI) after the results of an audit revealed LAI owed the county more than $10,000 during the 97-day audit period. The audit was done by a third party, and cost the county about $9,000.

As one of the county’s two value-added resellers (VARs) for broadband, LAI contracted with the county in March after the county terminated its contract with Colorado Fiber Community (CFC), which was serving as the network operator. The county took over the role of network operator and established contracts with LAI and Cimarron as the county’s VARs. The VARs pay a wholesale cost to the county for their clients’ usage. According to Rio Blanco County Communications Director Cody Crooks, the county has not been receiving any revenue at all from more than 125 addresses receiving service.

“We don’t want to drag them (LAI) through the mud, we want to make sure the taxpayers’ money is getting back to the county so we can add more fiber and more drops,” Crooks said.

In the early days of the broadband project, LAI set up a wireless network for customers waiting to be connected to fiber or for access to a tower. According to the contract, LAI was supposed to be transferring customers off its own network and onto the county network. LAI co-owner Dale Smith said he was “doing as many as I possibly could.”

Smith told the commissioners he had repeatedly asked Crooks “how to pay the county for this other network that we have, and got no answer.”

Smith said CFC allowed them to set up their own network before the county “ever put a shovel in the dirt” in an effort to get people connected as quickly as possible. “We were told we could do that and then transfer customers over to the county.”

“I never intentionally meant to deceive anybody,” said LAI co-owner Joy Clymer.

“Nothing was done illegally,” Smith said, explaining that his methods were intended to continue providing broadband service to customers while they waited for the county to catch up with towers and fiber.

“When it comes down to it, you look at the track record and all we’ve asked for is honesty, and I don’t feel like we’ve gotten it,” said Commissioner Shawn Bolton.

Commissioner Si Woodruff moved to start the process to terminate the agreement with LAI, seconded by Commissioner Jeff Rector.

Other business:

Approved Jeff Rector’s appointment to the Colorado Counties Incorporated legislative committee.

– Approved an opt-in for a class action lawsuit filed against the federal government for shorting the county’s PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) payments.

– Approved contracts for boiler servicing ($2,920) and fire protection system inspections ($8,000).

– Approved an emergency management performance grant agreement in the amount of $50,000.

– Approved an agreement for services with Thomas Y. Pickett and Company, Inc., for up to $55,000 in cooperation with the Assessor’s Office for assessing oil and gas properties.

– Approved $5,000 for countertops and $11,898.47 for flooring for the Fairfield remodel project.

 

By Niki Turner | niki@theheraldtimes.com