Water Tower Space

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 24, 2008

City continues discussion of renting out water tower space

By Jason C. Mattox

The City of Batesville moved closer to a rental agreement that would offer better wireless internet coverage in the outlying areas after a meeting with Travis Ferguson of Complete Computers Tuesday afternoon.

The mayor and board of aldermen began discussing the contract “line by line” at the request of Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders and almost immediately began discussions regarding the length of the contract.

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Under the proposed contract, drafted by Complete Computers, the company was requesting at least a 15-year lease for use of the city’s water towers as homes of wireless internet antennae.

“I can see where they need 15 years,” Mayor Jerry Autrey said. “That is a way for them to guarantee return on their investment.”

Ferguson said the company could go fewer than 15 years if the number of subscribers is high enough.

Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell explained that a board can not usually enter into a contract that is longer than their current term of office, meaning the contract could be only one year, or would have to be ratified by each new sitting board throughout the term of the contract.

Another point of contention arose when aldermen questioned the termination clause in the contract.

“The contract calls for third party mediation,” Mitchell pointed out.

Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger voiced his concern about the matter saying it was the board’s job to make termination decisions and not a third party.

“I would feel like we were doing the wrong thing if this is resolved by a third party,” he said.

Pounders suggested removing the mediator and calling for amicable agreement between both parties to terminate the contract.

“I think that is the way we need to handle it,” Ward 3 Alderman Stan Harrison said. “I certainly don’t want to see the city get into a contract we can’t get out of.”

Aldermen brought in Water Department superintendent Rickey Shirey when the time came to discuss access to the water tower.

“We will need 24-hour access,” Ferguson said. “Anything could break at any second and we need to be able to fix it. We don’t want our customers to lose service on a Saturday and not be able to fix it until Monday.”

Dugger said he was concerned with someone climbing the water tower to make the repairs.

Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley suggested, in the event of needed repairs, that Complete Computers contact the Police Department and be met by one of the city’s on-call employees.

“As long as we have someone there to monitor what is going on, I am OK with it,” Harrison said.

A clause that “held Complete Computers harmless” was removed from the contract.

“I can’t hold them harmless if there are any damages caused to the water tower by their equipment,” Harrison said.

Ferguson told aldermen his company would pay for any damages done to the tower.

“If our employees were to damage anything of yours, we would do the same for you,” Harrison said.

Aldermen will discuss the contract further next Wednesday. No action was taken.

In other board business:

•Herron and assistant city clerk Susan Berryhill were given permission to attend Women in Government Day training Nov. 7 in Jackson with expenses paid by the city.

•Hazel Kyles was given permission to use the downtown park Nov. 15 for her wedding.

•Russell McCullar of the Batesville Fire Department was given permission to attend the Water Resue Operations curriculum on October 31-Nov. 2 in Meridian with expenses paid by the city.

•Joey Bridges was reinstated as a volunteer firefighter.

•Berrick Gates, Dustin Conner and D’Andre Cole were hired as part-time employees in connection with the MDOT litter program.