Bryan: Mediacom contract not 'sole source'

The item was largely lost in the marathon of a six-hour December meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.

It has laid dormant since, but for Commissioner Joanna Bryan it is another example of government inefficiencies.

During November’s regular meeting the BOCC approved a contract with Mediacom to provide data services to the courthouse complex.

The contract was offered as a “sole source”, meaning the county could only receive the needed services from a single provider, and was placed in the consent agenda.

That agenda, has it does every meeting, is largely voted up or down in bulk by commissioners and is intended to contain only non-controversial or basic administrative issues.

However, the following month Bryan questioned why the contract was submitted as a sole source.

Mediacom was contracted to install a specified level of additional data services, with a monthly service fee over the life of the five-year contract.

However, Bryan said, Fairpoint Communications already has the wiring infrastructure in the courthouse and could provide the same level of bandwidth for data services as Mediacom.

The savings, Bryan said, could add up to nearly $10,000 a year or $50,000 over the life of the contract.

“This a pretty serious issue,” Bryan said. “This is a considerable expense to the county taxpayers. (Fairpoint officials) were very disappointed they didn’t get the opportunity to bid.”

Bryan added that Fairpoint’s offices were in Port St. Joe and the company employed a “lot of local people.”

She questioned why the Mediacom contract was submitted a sole source when it was not and wondered why the county did not go out for bids.

The same question was posed of county administrator Don Butler and assistant Lynn Lanier in a Dec. 3 email from Sandy Reeves, senior account executive with Fairpoint.

“I was not aware there was an RFP offered (for the contract Reeves learned about through public records),” she wrote in the email. “Perhaps there wasn’t.

“My concern is that Fairpoint already has fiber to the courthouse so there would be no install costs for the fiber that is already there and the monthly recurring charge for the service would be substantially less than what Mediacom shows they are charging.”

Reeves said Fairpoint could save the county $9,372 each year.

Bryan further noted that Fairpoint’s disappointment in the county decision follows the company installing additional infrastructure to buttress the 9-1-1 system to the tune of $800,000.

County attorney Jeremy Novak said commissioners were provided all the information county staff had at the time and that information led to the sole source determination.

Novak said Lanier had been tasked since last summer with contacting telecommunications providers about the county’s upgrade needs. What was provided the county was what was provided to commissioners.
“I think county staff was disappointed” in not receiving more information, Novak said.

As the time to make a decision arrived, Novak said, staff offered the information that was available. 

Lanier said she did not learn until an early December meeting with Fairpoint that the fiber infrastructure to meet the county’s needs was indeed already in place and had been since 1999.

She said she had called the government services business desk at Fairpoint and had been told the company could not provide the data capacity the county needed, a level recommended by the Florida Department of Management Services.

But Bryan said that was what the bidding process, seeking proposals from vendors, was about. Making phone calls would not only not procure all the needed information but also left the gray area that was evident in this case.

“Wouldn’t that have been the process, to go out for (Requests for Proposals)?” Bryan wondered with no response.

After approving the contract as a sole source in November, Novak noted the contract was already formalized.

To Bryan, the issue is one she believes is evident in everything from the county contract on solid waste to the reduction in the regular meeting schedule to the Americus Ditch project.

“We do not operate in an efficient way,” Bryan said. “We do not even follow our own policies.”