Granting Internet access contract not based on sound principles
I’ve been following your articles concerning the Summit County Telecommunications Consortium (SCTC) and its efforts to award a contract to provide a high-speed data network in the county.
If I may be permitted a few comments based upon a career that spanned 32 years in the computer-telecommunications business with experience in some successful, and unfortunately a few failed projects, maybe they will be of some use to the decision-makers in their current dilemma.
While it may be viewed as charming for the politicians/customers involved to claim they don’t understand technology and their eyes glaze over when it is discussed, this is a red flag for project failure.
How do you write specifications, grant contracts, monitor progress, sign off on milestones, evaluate performance – all of the functions of project management – if you don’t understand the technology you’re requesting?
Sounds like the SCTC is in love with the phrase “high-speed Internet” without a clue as to how it happens. It can’t and won’t be done without customers’ knowledge of where they want to go, and the knowledge to evaluate contractor progress toward that goal.
Apparently, the SCTC believes that the knowledge of the chairman, Bernie Zurbriggen, is sufficient to provide the necessary project management from the county’s side.
Based upon your articles, I question his qualifications in that role, and, in fact, his basic common sense. He has forgiven the late penalties in the contract – $655 for each day past deadline – because of “weather” and something about his not knowing there would be a need for a planning commission review.
You touched on his 12 years’ experience with Frisco and the countywide planning commissions, which makes the second argument ludicrous. But I’m fascinated to learn Summit County was not subject to “weather” at the time this contract was written to the extent that all parties were amazed to find we have that phenomena when it came time to perform the contract.
By the way, a second red flag for project failure is repeated busting of due dates. A third red flag is the failure to apply valid contract provisions. If you start to apply contract provisions selectively, your contractor will have grounds to negate the whole thing. Are the county attorneys paying attention?
This project was given to a contractor with a proven bad track record. Numerous county officials indicate they applied due diligence, but it really looks like they are all anxious to get their hands on the $456,000 grant for Summit County and into the hands of a local firm, and less concerned about what happens to that money after they get it.
In my previous life, there would be no way Peak Speed would have ever won any of our jobs, based upon the track record it’s shown to date. Red flag four – if there is no good contractor to do the job, reopen the request for procurement or cancel the whole thing and give the money back to the state until you are confident you have the right people able to do the job.
Never, ever, start a project solely to get your hands on the money.
It may be too late to do this project right, but, as a taxpayer, I hope there will be a little money left at the end to buy some tar and feathers, because my gut tells me that we’re going to have a need for it.
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