Monticello City Council OKs FiberNet report funding

The Monticello City Council has approved a staff request to spend between $7,000 and $11,000 for an outside consultant to complete a new FiberNet status report.
Councilmember Tom Perrault voted against the request Nov. 25. Perrault wanted the city to investigate the possibility of using a different consultant firm. Payment for the study will be drawn from Liquor Fund proceeds.
CCG Consulting, LLC, of Beltsville, Md. will prepare the report, which will focus on FiberNet technology and operational improvements for 2013 and 2014.
According to City Administrator Jeff O’Neill, since the departure of former management company HBC, certain FiberNet Monticello contracts have been restructured, significant investments have been made in equipment and technology modifications and realignment and reduction of FiberNet staff has occurred.
O’Neill said the city’s contract with current FiberNet Monticello General Manager Mark Pultusker and his Cleveland, Ohio-based company called FiberConnect is at the point of renegotiation and the terms proposed are expensive.
O’Neill said the report will be used in justifying renewal of Pultusker’s contract or it could lead to a request for proposal or potential hiring of a general manager.
CCG Consulting President Doug Dawson will complete the study, O’Neill said. “We are quite pleased with the changes and some of the things that have been done, but I think from a staff standpoint, it’s important for us to understand the full breadth and scope of the changes, given the fact that we are working hard to make our revenues and expenses match up.” O’Neill said, adding Dawson had the expertise, knowledge and ability to complete the report. “Doug knows the history of our system, and has provided input in the past.
According to O’Neill, $7,000 to $11,000 cost represented a reasonable amount, given the gravity and magnitude of what the city misspend each year on the FiberNet project.
“It would give everyone a sense of security at this time,” O’Neill told the city council.
Pultusker is currently working for the city of Monticello on a month-to-month contract, O’Neill said.
He has a six-month window in the event either party would decide to move into another direction. Before we get into negotiations on his longer-term contract, I think it would be good for us to feel good with our system,” O’Neill said.
Councilmember Brian Stumpf asked O’Neill who Dawson would report to while he was working on the FiberNet status report. O’Neill said the study will take about three weeks to complete, and during the report preparation process, Dawson would interview him, Finance Director Wayne Oberg and FiberNet staff.
“His report will come through my office, but I’m sure the FiberNet Advisory Board might have a look at it, as well as those negotiating Mark’s contract,” O’Neill said. “You are hiring Doug for his objective opinion. His job is to give us the facts. I certainly will not try to convince him of one thing or another.”
Mayor Clint Herbst and Councilmember Glen Posusta said the proposed FiberNet report wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. “We’ve had a checkup before,” Herbst said.
Posusta said the report prepared by Dawson would be no different than hiring an outside accountant for an independent review. Perrault still wanted to know if city staff had looked into the possibility of getting a price quote from another company. “Is there some other company that can do this,” Perrault asked O’Neill.
“Not in the time frame we would like,” O’Neill said. “If we were to put it out to the market, I can guarantee you we would not save much money doing that and we would lose a lot of time.”
Herbst asked Perrault if he had something against Dawson. “It [would be nice] to have a different set of eyes looking at it,” Perrault said. Doug’s been with us since the start.” Posusta replied: “He’s been out of the loop for quite a while, but it’s his forte. He does it for other companies. You have to keep in mind we are spending $30,000 a month just for management [on Pultusker’s contract]. This is a tiny, minsicule amount to make sure we are spending $30,000 wisely.”
Posusta said the council needed to look carefully before doing anything concrete with Pultusker regarding a one, two or three-year deal.
“We need to make sure we are making the right decisions,” he said. “I don’t think any of us up here have the ability to know what should be done when it comes to fiber optics or the FiberNet project.” Perrault remained persistent in stating he thought the city council should have a different party review FiberNet’s status.
Councilmember Brian Stumpf added: “I could see that if it was a $25,000 to $40,000 expense, but we are talking about a small amount of money,” Stumpf said. Herbst said it was important to move forward and get the study done so work could continue on FiberNet 2.0, an improved version of the existing city network.
“Part of the problem is we are dealing with  Mark Pultusker month to month on a contract extension,” Herbst said. “We could put that out for two or three months, but we want to move forward, rolling out FiberNet 2.0.” Other city council members agreed, and the funding request passed 4-1, Perrault voting no.

Contact Tim Hennagir at tim.hennagir@ecm-inc.com

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