Callabyte representatives pitch high-speed internet services, field questions from county officials; quote cost savings

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 11/6/19

HERMANN — Faster Internet service at a lower price — with most if not all county government offices connected to the same system — was the pitch made Thursday to the Gasconade …

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Callabyte representatives pitch high-speed internet services, field questions from county officials; quote cost savings

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HERMANN — Faster Internet service at a lower price — with most if not all county government offices connected to the same system — was the pitch made Thursday to the Gasconade County Commission by a firm that is finishing installing high-speed cables in Hermann.

Representatives of several county offices finally had a chance to ask questions of a representative of Callabyte,  the Internet provider arm of Callaway Electric Cooperative. County officials for several weeks had been trying to arrange a presentation after receiving a proposal to wire the Courthouse at a much lower cost than is being paid to several providers.

Rob Barnes, representing the business development and systems communications division of Callabyte, fielded a variety of questions from officeholders and staffers of seven county government offices.

Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, told Barnes one of the administrators’ desires is to unify the Internet service throughout the Courthouse. Currently, some of the offices have different providers. And the office of Prosecuting Attorney Mary Weston remains dependent on paper and pen in updating case files as they are dealt with by the court because of a lack of Internet connection within the courtrooms.

“I would like to see the Courthouse all on one and the same system,” Miskel told Barnes, noting that it would be beneficial to pay one Internet provider than the several now paid by County Clerk Lesa Lietzow.

“It’s been a nightmare for Lesa’s office,” said County Collector Shawn Schlottach.

As for pricing, the proposal offered earlier to county officials called for a monthly rate of slightly more than $200 for an initial two-year period. As it is now, county taxpayers are dishing out an estimated $1,000 a month to the various providers.

On this front, Barnes had good news for the officeholders: “I don’t see our prices going up any time soon.”

As part of Callaway Electric Cooperative, Callabyte is headquartered in Fulton. A relatively new company, Barnes said Callabyte is finishing its fourth year of constructing Internet systems. The company is almost done with installing a grid in Hermann.

“We’ll be wrapped up in Hermann…certainly by the end of the year,” Barnes said.

“Can you head down to Owensville?” quipped Teresa Bayless of the county’s Emergency Operations Center. Her joke highlighted a real issue for many Gasconade Countians: Internet availability — high-speed or otherwise — remains elusive in some of the more remote parts of the county.

In other matters at Thursday’s session of the County Commission:

The administrators agreed to extend advertising for Road Department positions to those interested in part-time employment. An in-house posting for an upcoming truck driver’s position attracted several potential applicants. Southern District Associate Commissioner Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, noted that he has received interest regarding part-time employment with the department.

“It would help us in the peak times,” Lairmore said. “It might give us some flexibility in hiring.”

Part-time jobs would not include benefits, but they could come with a slightly higher hourly wage, officials said.

The county clerk will be placing advertising for applications for a variety of Road Department positions. Those applications will be due Dec. 1 to allow the County Commission to figure any hiring into the upcoming 2020 operating budget that takes effect Jan. 1.

Speaking of the new budget, Miskel announced that the cost of autopsies performed by the University of Missouri Medical School will be increasing in the next year, from $1,750 to $2,100 each.

The administrators gave final approval to an Internal Controls document that make formal a policy covering procedures for handling finances by the various offices. It also covers such items as the bidding and payroll procedures. The adoption of such a document should satisfy long-standing concerns voiced by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office and the county’s private auditing firms, even though county offices have been operating under such procedures for many years.

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