Salisbury: Fibrant’s Advisory Committee’s MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

Posted on April 10, 2017

Todd Paris, Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney

Memo to:

• Dari Caldwell, President of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center .
• Teross Young, Vice President for Delhaize America .
• Dyke Messinger, CEO of Power Curbers.
• John Ketner, President of Rowan Investment Co.
• Matt Barr, CEO of Carolina Color.
• Dr. Jimmy Jenkins, President of Livingstone College .
• Luke Fisher, owner of Carrol Fisher Construction Co. and President of Fisher Realty.
• Nelson Murphy, Chief Operating Officer at Catawba College .
• Steve Fisher, Chairman and CEO of F&M Bank.
• Greg Alcorn, CEO of Global Contact Services.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, as the Advisory Committee to Salisbury City Council, is to advise them on doing something with Fibrant. RFP thanks you for your willingness to stake your personal and professional reputations on coming up with a possible cure for the “Fibrant debacle”, particularly since one or more of you may not live in Salisbury or vote here. Perhaps if past council members Susan Kluttz, Paul Woodson, Pete Kennedy, Bill Burgin and Mark Lewis, who voted to build this debacle had such advisors we would not have wasted 33 million dollars plus over the course of the last 8 years from the City of Salisbury’s operating fund.

The damage that the $3M to $2.4M dollar annual Fibrant deficit did to all city services is well documented in the pages of Rowan Free Press. The disruption to the Salisbury Police Department has only recently acknowledged by council as citizens in all neighborhoods now hear the almost nightly gunfire. As current Council Member David Post publically admitted, Fibrant drives the city.

During your research phase, I sincerely suggest that you read the following list of articles in Rowan Free Press. For much of Fibrant’s life, the local print media has almost unceasingly and exceptionally supportive of Fibrant while ignoring the grave financial problems it has caused. RFP also has a search bar on the main page.

Two previous opportunities to sell or lease Fibrant were wasted. One was by former State Representative Brawley (said to be representing the Trump organization). The other opportunity with North State Communications failed when Woodson inexplicably walked out on an initial meeting without even talking terms. The Brawley opportunity failed when past Mayor Woodson and Interim City Manager Sofley refused to “show them the books”.

While we will never know for sure, and perhaps I give Woodson too much credit, I surmise this unwillingness was caused by his desire to keep the “Run and Gun” a secret. Portions of the Fibrant network were initially erected by contractor AEG in violation of the National Electric Safety Code in last minute push to get the job done, thus the term, “run and gun.”

A dispute exists over whether this violation of law was authorized by someone with apparent authority to contractually bind Salisbury or not. Hundreds of thousands of Salisbury Rowan Utilities (water fund) dollars were spent on legal fees for “negotiations” during Kluttz and Woodson’s time as mayor before RFP, and I finally pushed the city into pulling the performance bond and filing a lawsuit in Rowan County Superior Court (16CVS1098). The last time I checked, this suit is still pending. For all we know, SRU is still paying the legal fees. The discovery in that case is, by law, not in the file at the courthouse and not subject to public records request under Chapter 132 of the NC General Statutes. A review of this discovery could tell you whether the city is likely to prevail. There is no law that prevents the city from allowing you to look at the discovery. The last time I ran for city council, I made a video that explains the “Run and Gun” and have attached a few other articles.

Hopefully, an engineering report and estimate of the costs for fixing the “run and gun” has been obtained and the legal team handling this should have an opinion as to the city’s likelihood of prevailing. Any potential purchaser needs to have this information before purchase lest we end up with a major lawsuit afterwards.

Please note that RFP and I fully support selling or a lease purchase to get rid of Fibrant. David Post and City Manager Bailey renegotiated the debt last year and cut some positions and expenses to create “value” for the system. Council claims that if you don’t include the monumental debt, Fibrant covers operating it expenses and generates a slight “profit.” Of course, this year’s budget is not out yet and we don’t know if staff is still hiding a majority of Fibrant employees in other department budgets as they have in the past. I explain that here:

Please note that the entire reason for selling or a lease purchase is to stop the $3M to $2.4M annual draw from the general fund. Any “solution” that does not do that is no solution at all and just continues the problem.

My figures indicate it would take somewhere around a ten cent property tax increase to plug the Fibrant deficit hole in the City’s budget and return the City of Salisbury to a normal level of operation.

Please note that if your group would like to question me or I could be of any assistance, David Post has my cell number and I would be happy to appear. Please exercise your own best business judgment, question what is presented to you and accept nothing given to you by the consultant, council, or staff at face value, particularly since you are working in secret. Don’t rubber stamp this. It’s way too important to the citizens and taxpayers of Salisbury. Good luck.

Posted in: Articles