The Fibrant Autopsy Part IV: Fibrant’s Death Rattle, Secret Meetings, and Hotwire Who? // Jim Sides Eyeballs the Hotwire Lease

Posted on April 20, 2018



Todd Paris, RFP Contributor and Salisbury Attorney

♦ Back in April 2017 City Council (Mayor Karen Alexander, Brian Miller and Maggie Blackwell, David Post and Kenny Hardin) and City Manager Lane Bailey decided it was finally time to try to “do something” about the Fibrant Debacle. If Fibrant was a nuclear reactor we were well past the time of monitoring the radiation in the river. Six foot catfish had grown legs and were crawling out and eating people’s poodles. Over the objections of Post and Hardin, a blue ribbon panel of our “business betters” was selected to engage in closed door sessions to interview perspective suitors for a sale or lease. A number did not even live in Salisbury! I offered my assistance but…

https://rowanfreepress.com/2017/04/10/salisbury-fibrants-advisory-committees-mission-impossible/

None of these people had any experience in the broad band industry. It was farcical. Even the local print media, used to being the darlings of city council, were excluded from the meetings. In a rare burst of investigative journalism a local print reporter, peeking in the widows at a PowerPoint presentation, reported his view was suddenly blocked by potted plants. The next meeting would have the windows all papered over. The new chief of police was posted by the door, apparently ready to arrest any tax-payer that would dare try to find out what was going to happen to millions and millions of dollars of pubic money. This “star chamber” would meet for weeks, lips sealed and doors blocked. How very Salisbury!

Salisbury appeared on the radar of the State Treasurer’s Office for “magic math” and questionable accounting methods. The solution for Salisbury was secret meetings.

https://rowanfreepress.com/2017/04/13/salisbury-the-latest-fibrant-secret-adventures-the-rosetta-stone-and-the-state-treasurer/

We know now that Hotwire.com was at these meetings and eventually made an offer. I know this because David Post set up a meeting with me and Jonathon Bullock, Vice President of Hotwire at Bangkok Downtown on East Innes. In full disclosure, I did let him buy me dinner and exactly two drinks. I came straight from the office with little cash and I figured if the lease passes, Hotwire will get their money back in the first month. This is a change for me. I wouldn’t let County Commission Chair Greg Edds buy me lunch in a month of Sundays. I will have more on the meeting Mr. Bullock later.

The rub is that we, as the general public, due to the secret meetings have no idea whether Hotwire’s offer was the best one made. It is simply none of our business. I blame ex-Mayor Karen Alexander for the lack of leadership in this matter. In secret meetings, our “betters” were consulted and ka-ching, here’s your offer! I have interviewed David Post and he says it’s the best offer. A few years back he sold his internet and mail order prescription dug business at a profit. Maybe he knows what he is talking about? Brian Miller at council said there were offers to buy Fibrant outright, but none came in with enough to pay off Fibrant’s debt. Seeing that he is one of the “architects” of the stalled Empire Hotel project that has lapped up $90K of our municipal service district taxes per year for nearly a decade for a total of almost 1 million dollars, I don’t know. I’m not sure I trust this guy for directions to Taco Bell. Than again, that’s another story.

So we start this analysis with a remarkable lack of transparency and an offer on the table. Do we let someone “Hotwire our Fibrant” and drive it away to the land of alleged profitability or should we be wary? The next installment will be “The Hotwire Lease – Time to look under the hood.” Oh here’s something to read:

https://reason.org/policy-study/lessons-in-municipal-broadband/

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Jim Sides, Salisbury, N.C.

♦ I will readily admit that I am no financial wizard. I did run a business with as many as 7 employees for 27 years and never missed a payroll.  When I closed and sold the business, I did not owe anyone a dime.

I just want to see on paper the figures that will explain to me how a “business” that is losing more than 3 million dollars per year can be leased by any company and the company and the city are both going to come away with a profit?

It all sounds impossible to me, but hey, what do I know?

David Post said the city would ultimately save over $20 million dollars per the article in the incredible shrinking Salisbury print media. In the same article, Karen Alexander said the city would save over $10 million dollars.

Whoa these two city council members can’t even agree on a figure to give the public. In my opinion the city council is being “snookered” by Hotwire. In my opinion they will rob the utility of any assets over the next 2-3 years and they will then be gone.

What the city takes back then will be worthless.

I actually hope I my prediction is wrong, but I don’t think so.

Why won’t they simply give the public a simple financial accounting of how all this is to take place?

Salisbury seems to have more to hide now than when they were doing their “magic math”.

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