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Fibrant chief takes over city’s technology services

SALISBURY — The cable industry veteran hired last year to rescue Fibrant has taken over management of all the city’s technology services, including traffic signals.
Mike Jury is now head of infrastructure services as well as Fibrant, the city’s new high-speed broadband utility, City Manager Doug Paris confirmed Monday.
Paris said Jury’s title is now “general manager” and compared his role to the city’s two assistant city managers.
“He is the general manager of pretty much all of the operations out of the Customer Service Center,” Paris said.
Fibrant’s personnel costs have fallen by $400,000 since 2011, according to the proposed 2013-2014 budget. Fibrant’s personnel costs were $645,226 two years ago, but Paris has requested just $243,712 for personnel in the coming fiscal year.
Paris said there have been no layoffs or staff cuts at Fibrant, although the sales and marketing manager and outside plant manager have left Fibrant and taken new jobs at Salisbury-Rowan Utilities.
Paris said the decrease in personnel expenses is due to a reorganization. It’s not unusual after departments are reorganized to have salaries moved to different areas of the budget, he said, and Jury’s $100,000 salary is not included in the Fibrant budget.
“It’s hard to compare year upon year when there has been a reorganization,” he said.
City Council will take public comment on the proposed budget at 4 p.m. today in City Hall.
Jury has led a rebound of the city’s utility, Paris said, which is budgeted for the first time to generate enough revenue in the coming year to cover debt payments and operating costs. Fibrant has been borrowing millions of dollars from the water-sewer capital reserve fund to pay operating costs but will not need another internal loan, he said.
Paris credits his staff’s work to cut costs and run the utility more efficiently.
All Fibrant operations are now housed in the Customer Service Center, and the utility has moved out of a building the city was renting on Klumac Road, Paris said.
Jury’s new responsibilities include broadband, the city’s traffic signal system and technology used throughout the city’s infrastructure, Paris said. City staff worked for eight months to develop the new arrangement and eliminate duplication of duties, he said.
Wendy Brindle, the interim city engineer, still handles traffic engineering. Deb Young, former facilities maintenance manager, is the new business manager for infrastructure services.
Jury’s experience in the private sector, which Paris said made him the best candidate to run Fibrant, also gives him the background and mentality needed to run other city services like a business, Paris said.
Paris acknowledged that Jury owns and manages other broadband systems while running Fibrant. Jury is listed as the CEO of Altitude Communications in Valdosta, Ga., on the company’s website. His wife, Kary Jo Jury, is listed as the director of operations.
Paris said Mike Jury’s work outside of Fibrant doesn’t interfere with his responsibilities in Salisbury. Jury could not be reached for comment.
“He has done an excellent job making our operation more efficient and reducing duplication,” Paris said.
Barry King, Fibrant’s former outside plant manager, is now an assistant manager for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities. King’s former job at Fibrant was consolidated with another position, Paris said.
Jenny Waisner, Fibrant’s former sales and customer service manager, has joined Salisbury-Rowan Utilities as an environmental education specialist, coordinating public outreach and education efforts.
Her former post is now held by Adam Shepherd, Fibrant’s interim sales manager. Paris said Shepherd, who previously worked for Fibrant competitor Time Warner Cable, is the top sales producer and recruited more than 450 new subscribers in the past 18 months.
Despite the departures and reorganization, Paris said Fibrant has not changed.
“It’s not unusual to have people want to take positions elsewhere in the organization,” he said. “Their promotions are a testament to the quality Fibrant employees we have.”
Jury’s work at Fibrant was exceptional, Paris said, and caused city leaders to look at how they could apply the same efficiencies to other services.
“We wanted to bring the private-sector mind set to areas that were similar,” he said.
Fibrant should continue to be self-supporting, Paris said, even after annual debt payments return to $3 million.
Fibrant’s debt payment next year falls to about $1.7 million, thanks to refinancing. But the annual payment returns to about $3 million in 2015 and remains at that level until 2029, when Fibrant is paid off.
Paris praised city staffers for producing a balanced city budget with no tax rate increase and no fee hikes. The budget picks up the cost of six firefighters, who had been paid with a federal grant, and includes a 2.25 percent pay raise for qualified city employees.
“It was a collaborative effort and a year’s worth of work to make our city financially sound,” Paris said. “I was extremely impressed.”

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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