County selects telecommunications service

Commissioners choose area company after 12-hour meeting Monday

— The Moffat County Board of Commissioners decided what company will bring high-speed telecommunications to Moffat County and Northwest Colorado during a 12-hour meeting Monday.

Commissioners chose the $1.2 million joint proposal submitted by White River Electric Association Inc., located in Meeker, and UBET Telecommunications, located in Roosevelt, Utah.

The White River Electric Association (WREA) and UBET proposal was selected from four proposals submitted early Monday morning. The other three were from US West, Amigo Net and MFS Network Technologies. The proposals submitted by Amigo Net and MFS Network Technologies were eliminated early in the morning by the Telecommunications Steering Committee because the proposals did not guarantee the Moffat County commitment to the Colorado State Patrol (CSP). Moffat County has committed to "closing the loop" of the CSP statewide telecommunications system.

The Steering Committee, made up of Northwest Colorado government officials and people interested in area telecommunications, spent the majority of the day deciding between the US West proposal and the WREA/UBET proposal.

Both proposals satisfied the commitment to the CSP. The question for the committee was whether benefits of the $1.2 million WREA/UBET proposal outweighed the benefits of the $881,156.21 US West proposal, and justified the extra spending.

Members of the committee voted 5-2 in favor of the WREA/UBET proposal, with one member neutral and one abstaining in the vote. The vote was taken after both proposals were measured against the criteria put together by the Steering Committee when it first formed two years ago with the purpose of bringing high-speed telecommunications to Northwest Colorado.

Representatives from US West and WREA/UBET were included in the session to answer questions about their proposals. Steering Committee members then took their findings to the Moffat County commissioners' chambers.

Commissioners were informed by members of the Steering Committee and representatives of US West and WREA/UBET about specifics of the proposals.

After hearing the information on the proposals, commissioners voted to go into an executive session to discuss the proposals, despite objections by the Craig Daily Press. Commissioners had said they would keep the telecommunications process open to the public, and there was no executive session noted on the agenda for the regular meeting Monday. The executive session lasted about 10 minutes before the public was allowed to return to the meeting.

According to Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson, the purpose of the executive session was for contract negotiations and no decisions were made by commissioners during that time.

"I believe that we properly exercised our due diligence in looking at the information and that is right and proper," said Dickinson. "I would hope that you and the general public would understand and appreciate that."

Commissioners Marianna Raftopoulos and Dickinson voted for the WREA/UBET proposal.

"I believe that this proposal offers the most for Moffat County and I also believe that it offers the most for the region," said Dickinson. "I think that what we're proposing here is worth the money."

Commissioner Joe Janosec voted against the motion to accept the WREA/UBET proposal. Janosec believes the US West proposal was better for Moffat County taxpayers.

"I have a hard time seeing where going south through Rio Blanco County with White River (WREA/UBET proposal) is going to enhance Moffat County and the taxpayers by $700,000," said Janosec.

WREA and UBET will build a telecommunications infrastructure from the future Moffat County Public Safety Center in Craig to Grand Junction with DS3 fiber optic capacity. This capacity will be operational Jan. 1, 2001.

Moffat County will pay $500,000 for WREA/UBET to build the system. In addition, $700,000 will be for prepaid services for a 10-year period, or until the services are used. The services will be for county and community purposes such as hospitals, education and libraries.

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