The Richland County commissioners have decided to pay an early termination fee for current internet service at the Dog Warden’s office in order to save money while bringing the office under the same provider as other county departments and offices. The decision was made after the board met with County Auditor Pat Dropsey and Matt Hill from the auditor’s IT department.
Hill told commissioners the Dog Warden’s office is the only one that has not converted from Lumen, formerly CenturyLink, to Spectrum and still has13 months on the Lumen contract at a cost of $3,796 per month. He said early termination would cost 50% of the remaining contract, depending on the company’s current interpretation, which would total around $4,000 under the worst case scenario.
“I won’t know the exact amount of the early termination until we submit our letter of disconnect. That’s just the way they do business now,” Hill said.
Hill said the total monthly cost of the CenturyLink service is higher because the county still has to maintain three other circuits with CenturyLink to have the one link to the Dog Warden’s office and dog pound. Those connections are on a month-to-month basis.
Officials said switching to Spectrum earlier will mean internet speeds will be 10 times faster and service will be better.
Commissioners also heard two requests for vehicles — one from the prosecutor’s office and the other from the coroner.
Coroner’s Chief Investigator Bob Ball told the board that the current 2013 Dodge Caravan has over 101,000 miles on it and has problems with a door coming open and a slipping transmission that together could cost as much as $5,000 to fix. Ball has been told that it could take three or four months for repairs because of problems getting parts, pointing out that the office has gotten busier.
“The way it’s been going right now, we’ve been seeing around seven or eight after-hour callouts per week,” Ball said.
Ball said a local car dealer has a 2019 Jeep Compass available for $22,980 and has offered a $5,000 trade in for the Caravan, noting that the vehicle used by the other investigator also is a Compass.
Commissioners approved the purchase and asked County Business Manager Andrew Keller to determine if American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds can be used to pay for the vehicle.
Regarding the other vehicle, commissioners turned down a request by County Prosecutor Gary Bishop to buy a fourth vehicle for his office. Commissioner Darryl Banks said he was told in a recent meeting with Bishop that the car Bishop currently uses would be assigned to a new investigator and that Bishop would use the new vehicle to drive to and from work because of the possibility of being called out on cases.
Banks did not favor the purchase. “The three of us use our own cars and gasoline for what we do other than if we’re outside the county,” he said. “Although there are certain people that work for the county that need to have a car to go home and then go out to work on our sewer lines, or do other work, I just don’t see the need for a fourth car.”
Banks pointed out that Bishop has come to the commissioners several times and asked for additional money for staff salaries. He suggested that Bishop could use the grant money that he proposed to spend for the car to cover his office’s general fund expenses and use his regular budget dollars for employees.
Commissioners chairman Tony Vero said he checked with several other counties and found that three do not have vehicles assigned to their prosecutor offices while another has one vehicle.
Commissioners said Bishop should come to a meeting to discuss the issue if he feels he needs to have the fourth vehicle.
Commissioners move forward on Plymouth sewer project
In other business, commissioners voted to award an engineering contract to K.E. McCartney and Associates for a storm sewer project on West Broadway Street in Plymouth that will correct heavy flooding that happens during rain events and is creating a safety issue. They also scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. on April 12 for a change of scope for the project because the work primarily is being funded with federal Community Development Block Grant dollars.
Commissioners read a letter from Richland County Regional Planning Director Jotika Shetty who recommended the change because the village is planning a water line replacement project in the same area that would happen after the sewer project. Since the sewer project includes paving work, Shetty said it would “not be wise” to do the paving and then tear it up for the water line project.