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Salisbury moving toward leasing Fibrant internet service to Hotwire Communications

By Jessica Coates 

jessica.coates@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The city has reached a far enough point in negotiations to say it hopes to lease Fibrant to Hotwire Communications, City Manager Lane Bailey said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“Hotwire is the nation’s fastest internet provider,” Bailey said. “And this will go a long way towards solving some of the financial challenges that we face with this utility.”

Bailey said the city has been working with CTC Technology and Energy, a Washington-based technology consulting firm, since November 2016 to “help us find a solution to Fibrant.”

On the advice of CTC, Bailey said, the city sent out requests for proposals in January 2017.

“The (requests) stated the city’s interest in a third-party provider to arrange an arrangement that would enhance our Fibrant service to the community and indicated the city was flexible in various types of proposals,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the city received 14 proposals in response.

At a City Council meeting in July, Bailey said the city was looking at a “couple of companies that we’ve whittled it down to.”

Now Bailey said the city has chosen to move forward with Hotwire Communications and that both parties have made “significant progress toward a final lease agreement.”

“The city is optimistic that a final agreement may be reached in the next few weeks,” Bailey said.

State law requires that if a deal is reached, the public must vote in a referendum to approve the lease agreement.

Bailey presented a resolution to the council Tuesday night that would allow him and City Attorney Rivers Lawther to draft a proposed ballot measure to submit to the Rowan County Board of Elections.

Bailey said he would request that the measure be put on the May 8 primary election ballot.

The council approved the resolution unanimously, and many of the council members thanked Bailey for his hard work.

“This is big news,” Councilman David Post said.

“Very big news,” Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield agreed.

In an interview after the meeting, Bailey said that if the deal goes through, “success” will not mean the city stops subsidizing Fibrant immediately.

“(It) won’t mean that we go from a $3.2 million subsidy to no subsidy. If we can cut that in half in the first year or so, we have made great headway,” Bailey said. “When the debt service is paid off in 12 years … it will become a profit center. You know, finally, we will be in the black then.”

Bailey said he thinks leasing Fibrant to Hotwire would get the city “closer to where we need to be.”

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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