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Internet deal raises questions, ire

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ROBERT ALLEN

Times Reporter

A new deal for Quincy’s Internet usage became the major point of debate during the city commissioners’ regularly scheduled meeting   Feb. 25 at city hall.

 

Mayor Keith Dowdell presented a new plan to increase the city’s Internet bandwidth, lower the city’s monthly Internet expenses, and possibly sell extra bandwidth to Tallahassee for around $70,000 annually. Dowdell said the switch could “put us on the map and help us out with our financial situation.”

 

Quincy currently pays at least $5,100 per month for 45 megabytes of bandwidth. Some months cost even more. The project would allow the city to pay $3,100 a month for one gigabyte — and possibly receive new revenue from Tallahassee. 

 

Jack McLean, city manager, discovered the deal. McLean told the commission there had been a finite window of time to secure such inexpensive bandwidth.

 

Florida law allows governments to adopt a bid a contractor has already offered a different government organization. A Florida school district was the first to secure the $3,100-per-month bid from Level 3, an Internet provider. Since then, some other government organizations have wanted the same deal. McLean said he contacted Level 3 just in time and Quincy was the last contract they could offer at such a low rate because too many organizations wanted the same deal.

 

McLean made an agreement with the company, reserving the low rate for a short period of time. Then McLean negotiated a step further. Level 3 agreed to make Quincy a reseller of their product to bulk buyers inside and outside Gadsden County. McLean said the infrastructure necessary for resale would cost around $320,000.

The commission voiced reservations over their lack of involvement in the development of the idea thus far.

 

Commissioner Andy Gay said each step should have been made with the commission’s blessing. Similarly, Commissioner Derrick Elias asked McLean if he had ever tried calling him about the idea. McLean said he had. 

Gay motioned that the city “cease and desists” all discussion associated with the new bandwidth project. Elias seconded Gay’s motion. It passed, 3-2, with Commissioner Micah Brown voting in favor of Gay’s motion. Dowdell and Commissioner Larry Edwards voted to allow further investigation and consideration of the idea. 

 

Edwards explained his vote. After also acknowledging the shortage of current information, Edwards said he didn’t want to dismiss the possibility before he was provided with thorough information and ample opportunity to consider it. 

 

A special meeting to discuss the issue was set for March 4. 

In other Quincy business:

 

* The commission unanimously voted to issue a special use permit for a local resident wishing to open a daycare facility on East Jefferson Street. Such permits are issued after the Planning and Development Review Board and the City Commission consider a standardized list of criteria. The criteria aim at ensuring the location and facility will suit the proprietor’s purpose while serving the public’s interest. 

 

* Commissioner Andy Gay reported the state has listed Quincy in a condition of non-compliance regarding the city’s failure to file adequate financial information. He asked McLean if the sate would have the requisite numbers by deadline, Feb. 28. If not, Gay wanted to know if the commission should anticipate any punitive action from the sate. 

McLean said the state would have the numbers by deadline. He also said the commission should not anticipate any punitive action from the state. 

 

* The commission discussed selling a parcel of city-owned land to New Evangelist Temple Church of God in Christ. The real estate is near the church’s property on 437 Williams St. Jerry Miller, city attorney, suggested the commission have the property independently appraised, noting that independent appraisers often find higher property values. Miller also suggested the commission develop a policy for selling city property.