The Clay County Commission met Monday, Sept. 12, for their planning session and regular monthly meeting. All members were present. Roy Johnson served as Chairman.
The Commission voted to renew their broadband contract with M3 Connections after much discussion. This has been a controversial subject for the past few years, since the broadband wireless service that was promised to the citizens of Clay County never happened. “We’ve had the broadband wireless people say they had failed in their attempt to provide this for the county”, said Johnson.
Part of the original contract with M3 Connections included providing free service to several county buildings and was also supposed to provide free service to volunteer fire departments, and several other entities that also never took place. Johnson stated the free service was supposed to be in exchange for the right of way agreements and space at the EMA Office for this service.
This contract was to renew that service for several of the main county buildings and offices. The current contract from five years ago expires October 1, 2016, but has an automatic renewal clause for broadband. M3 had only wanted to go three years, but the county was able to get five. County Clerk Linda Varner reported they had been trying since April to get a new contract before these numbers came through at the last minute.
The revised contract stated this free service was a savings of $565 per month for each of seven different locations, a savings of over $4000 a month. “This will save the county money for the next several years” Johnson said and everyone thanked Linda for working so hard on this contract.
At a previous meeting, M3 representative said they would continue to allow the county office that have broadband at the annex, the courthouse, city of Ashland, Wynn Building, and Ashland Library for 5 more years at no cost and no charge to the county. However, this contract is now just for the county and the cities will have their own contract now.
Johnson stated his opinion that he has reiterated every time this subject is brought up that he is continually disappointed he still is that what the real purpose was to provide wireless internet for the citizens of the county, which it did not do. “There is cable service in some areas that many households and businesses are able to take advantage of, but the whole concept of helping the county, especially those who are in such rural areas that they aren’t able to get any internet providers failed and never happened.
Watts stated he felt they dropped the ball too in their promise to provide this service to the citizens and fire depts.
“I think they were very deceptive from the beginning and just crooks” said Milstead. ” This was before my time.”
“Many people had expectations and we promoted something that did not take place and as you said,(directed towards Milstead) we were mislead” said Johnson.
Johnson also pointed out that Commissioner John Wheeles,who passed away earlier this year, with his background in communication, kept telling everyone that this just didn’t sound right.”If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is”, said Commissioner Beth Wheeles, of her late husband’s advice.
County Attorney Greg Varner said he felt this company was in breach of contract with the county, because it wasn’t the counties’ fault that they made a promise to do certain things based upon technology, and it wasn’t our fault it failed. “They were wholly relying upon this particular technology to be able to receive FCC approval. It failed and the technology still doesn’t exist.” Varner suggested they add a provision to the renewed contract that if that technology does come into place, that would enable us to gain the access during this five years, preceding on the breach to get what they originally contracted for.
Varner said he had reviewed the drug policy and other than just a few tweaks, it looked good to him. EMA Director Theresa Daughtery said the only thing she would add is there was a bill pending that might change how everybody goes about drug testing and need to keep our ears open and watch to see if that passes. In light of this information, Johnson said the county still needed to update their policy, and then watch any litigation that takes place concerning this issue.
The subject of appointing someone to oversee these testings and be in charge of keeping up with records and maintaining them brought about the suggestion from Commissioner Watts for each department head keep up with their own, with a rotating chairman. Milstead agreed with Watts. Daugherty said she thought that would require some training as well. No one has been in charge.
It was Sheriff Latham’s recommendation to have a standardized system of collecting the sample and then the chain of that custody needs to be maintained of that sample. If that field test is positive, then it would need to be submitted to a forensic lab for verification. A visual presence is included in this policy. After this discussion, it was decided to discuss this matter further at the next work session.In light of this information, Watts withdrew his motion.
Commissioners approved the renewal of the S&W Contract- renewal of hardware and software contract ending Sept. 30. 2016. This company manages information kept at the annex, such as payroll and different types of information. This contract is always paid in full to get a 10% discount.. County Administrator Mary Wood said this company was very accommodating to work with and was very pleased with their services.
District 4- Wheeles:
- Industrial Board- Billy Walker 4 yr term
- Hospital Board- Joanna Blair, Larry Fetner, Gerald Burdette, 4 yr terms
- Millerville Water Authority- Kenny Packer ( 2015 term)- 6 yr term
District 3: Milstead-
- Hospital Board- Ricky Farr 4 yr term
District 5: Burney-
- Millerville WaterAuthority- Lorenzo Caldwell- 6 yr term
District 1: Johnson
- Hollins Park Board-Louie Gallops Eddie Caldwell, Bryan Johnson- 6 yr term
There were two parks addressed a few months ago at a commission meeting, Mellow Valley park and Hollins Park. Both were created around 1975 with grant money, federal assistance, and a lot of in-kind service from the county. Over the years, various things had happened and changed, particularly in Mellow Valley park and some issues there about it not being functional. Milstead has been working on the cleanup there. ADECA still has Clay County red flagged for not more grants for Mellow Valley park until a plan of action is provided for this park as to whether they will declare the park obselete or whatever they are going to do there.
Milstead said that Diane Glenn with EARPDC was checking on whether declaring the park obselete and stated Mellow Valley Alumni will be the Board that oversees the park.
Varner stated that at this point, it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring the park back up to satisfaction and specifically at this time, they were told this would only affect future grants for this park alone, and they weren’t expected to ask for any more money for this park. Varner said this was a change of position by ADECA as to what they represented to them when they ( EARPDC) were here last. One of the alternatives was the declaration of obselevance.
A grant application had been submitted for some new playground equipment for the Hollins Park in the amount of $7,000, a 100% grant from RC&D. This was approved. Johnson said this park was well maintained, self-sufficient and they even pay their own power bill.
EMA Director Theresa Daugherty reported there was damage in Sunday afternoon’s storm that came through around 2:00 PM in the city of Ashland, when a large tree separated and went through an occupant’s roof. The apartment was not occupied at the time. There was also a power line down in Millerville and a fallen tree on 31, and another downed tree in a pasture on Tyson Rd.
Sheriff Latham announced the vehicles declared surplus several meetings ago were now ready for reassignment at the Commission’s discretion. It was agreed to do this at the next work session.
Commissioner Watts said he was getting a lot of calls and have gotten over 200 applications already. Watts went to say that he had spoken with the Water Superintendent in addressing some of the questions that he was getting from citizens in reference to the big water project. Watts said that it would be around $750 for the water hookup, and made sure that it was noted that this was addressed at the meeting the other day that this hookup amount could be potentially much lower than anticipated.
This $750 is a current price for is for them to come out to a residence and set up a meter at a house, but this price changes considerably if there are more hookups in this area, so this future amount remains to be seen at this time. There is not other meetings scheduled for this water project/signup at this time. Johnson went on to state that they are getting lots of calls, mail, and walk-ins at the annex about this matter and that they needed to utilize fire depts because it directly affects them. Watts said they had invited Keith Strickland to attend next meeting in order to get the fire depts involved and they can reach more people just in case they weren’t aware of this project. This water project will cover over 120 miles of water lines and over 1400 households to those who are in need.
In regards to the purchasing policy, Burney stated it was important to purchase from inside the county and to spread it around evenly so these businesses can all benefit.
Burney also pointed out that the water rates were indeed going up in January, when the Water Board promised they wouldnt do that and approved by them. He said he knew that Koch Foods was particularly concerned about it and people were upset about it.
Burney said they needed to open the door to work with other grant writers because he felt that they had gone about as far as they could go with the one they currently has been working with on several projects. This was agreed and there was brief discussion.
The meeting was then adjourned.