NCT contract changes proposed

'Phone card' account could be used for other expenses

Moffat County is proposing more changes to its three-year-old contract with NC Telecom to pay the Meeker company for a video link installed in January between the Moffat County Courthouse and Public Safety Center.

In a proposed amendment, $54,000 in installation costs on the project could paid from a $700,000 pre-paid telecommunications account -- tapping a cash source in the $1.2 million 1999 contract that prohibited installation charges.

The move -- which would be a second amendment in three years to a still-undelivered contract -- would more importantly allow future installation charges to be paid out of Moffat County's pre-paid "phone card."

"The $54,000 now can't be paid from pre-paid services," said Kathleen Taylor, Moffat County attorney.

Moffat County already has paid NC Telecom roughly $233,000 of the $700,000 account. The county holds the balance in an interest-bearing escrow account.

"That money is already put away," Taylor said. "They're willing to do this and we're not having to pay this out of the general fund."

Included in the original 1999 deal, a $700,000 pre-paid account was set aside to pay future, unspecified telecommunication services for specific public entities, including county offices, Moffat County schools, libraries, municipalities and hospitals.

No county plan exists for rolling out these services, while few of the entities named in the deal knew the account existed last December.

NC Telecom was to be reimbursed separately by the county for installation charges, according to the 1999 contract.

However, the company

indicated the exact opposite last month.

"The entire cost for this project is eligible for payment using funds allocated in the Moffat County Prepaid Services Agreement," a cost estimate from NC Telecom to the county dated Feb. 12 states.

The quote was for a voice and data link to the courthouse and jail, which allows judges in both county and district court to conduct live hearings with inmates in the Public Safety Center.

Darryl Steele, Moffat County commissioner, welcomed the contract change.

"It's an excellent deal for the county," Steele said. "Why they would give that concession, I don't know."

Steele in Tuesday afternoon's county commissioner session pointed to the company's performance.

"Since they've been so slow and are actually in violation of the contract, maybe they're giving this to us as a concession," he said.

Rick Heming, NC Telecom operations manager, declined to comment on possible changes to the 1999 deal.

Heming, who drafted the Feb. 12 quote for Moffat County, said he was unaware if installation charges conflicted with any terms of the 1999 deal. A supervisor had indicated prior to submitting the quote that pre-paid services could be tapped, he said.

"If there are questions, it's certainly appropriate to bring that up," he said.

The county has paid NC Telecom $500,000 from the $1.2 million for the Colorado State Patrol's use of redundant communications infrastructure, which was completed seven months behind schedule in November 2001.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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