County’s $507K in limbo |

County’s $507K in limbo

NC Telecom files for bankruptcy

Brandon Johnson

Moffat County commissioners went into an hour-long executive session Tuesday to discuss the NC Telecom bankruptcy, as officials wonder what will happen to the $507,000 it paid the troubled company in advance for services.

NC Telecom, a Meeker-based Internet service provider, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Oct. 14. Chapter 11 bankruptcy frees a company from the threat of creditors’ lawsuits while it reorganizes its finances.

NC Telecom has said services to clients would not be disrupted during its reorganization.

In 1999, Moffat County prepaid NC Telecom for Internet service through 2011.

Commissioners went into executive session with County Attorney Kathleen Taylor and Tinneal Gerber, budget analyst.

Taylor declined to divulge exactly what commissioners discussed behind closed doors except to say it was about the bankruptcy filing.

Taylor said she hopes to meet with NC Telecom’s attorney this week to discuss the bankruptcy and what it means for the county.

Commissioner Darryl Steele said he isn’t sure what would happen to the county’s $500,000.

“I for one want to really work very hard here to make sure Moffat County doesn’t lose any money on this deal,” he said.

Rick Heming, NC Telecom general manager, said he isn’t sure what the filing means for Moffat County’s prepaid money, but he said he was certain the county’s Internet services would not be cut off any time soon.

When the county contracted with NC Telecom for Internet service, none of the current commissioners was involved.

But Steele and Commissioner Tom Gray said they had some reservations about the contract before they entered office.

“I had a lot of questions that really did not get answered,” Steele said.

Steele and Gray said they were frustrated that the commissioners are forced to deal with problems from a contract entered into by an earlier board.

Gray said the bankruptcy filing validates the concerns some county residents had about entering into a contract with NC Telecom instead of another company five years ago.

Gray said he didn’t think signing a long-term service contract for Internet service was a good idea because the industry is constantly changing.

“You are betting on a company being in business by the time the contract runs out,” Gray said.

Moffat County had its prepaid money moved into an interest-bearing escrow account in 2003 because NC Telecom was late delivering services.

Steele said if the company doesn’t provide Internet service to the county through 2011, the county gets to keep the interest. If NC Telecom provides service for the life of the contract, the company keeps the interest.

As of the end of September, the escrow account had earned $44,491 in interest.

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