County votes to hire broadband consultant

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2016

An operating agreement between Decatur County and Turner Broadband is getting closer to becoming reality.

Tuesday morning, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to hire Mies Management Associates of Atlanta to help in drafting and negotiating a long-desired contract between the two parties.

The board voted back in January to develop a contract with Turner Broadband’s Shane Turner. A contract is needed to set up parameters on how Turner can attach his equipment to Decatur County-owned poles, how he will improve his services and for how long.

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Commissioner Russell Smith, who has been pushing for a contract for months so he and his neighbors in the south part of the county can have quality Internet service, questioned how much longer residents would have to wait until the service is back on track.

Because of the specialized nature of providing Internet access to residents in Decatur County, Decatur County attorney Bruce Kirbo suggested finding a third party with expertise in wireless broadband operations.

According to the proposal, Mies would assist in writing a contract that outlines Turner’s “use of county facilities for the operation of the county-wide wireless broadband network.”

Mies would charge $195 per hour if a satisfactory agreement is reached by both parties and $125 per hour if no such agreement is made. According to county administrator Alan Thomas, the consultant has indicated that this process should not take more than 15 hours and Turner has agreed to pay half of the consultant’s fees.

“We have an obligation to a lot of citizens in this county who, right now, have poor to mediocre service, so we need to give it our best shot to get it right,” said commissioner Butch Mosley.

In August 2012, Turner took over Main Street Broadband after the company went under. Main Street Broadband, LLC, and Decatur County signed a contract in December 2009, with the intention of creating a wireless broadband high-speed Internet service that could provide Internet connections to anyone in Decatur County. The project was included on the project list that voters approved in the SPLOST referendum.

The county overspent its allotted $2.5 million in SPLOST funds on the project. The equipment used to provide Internet to the county is attached to Decatur County towers.