Fort Oglethorpe part­ner­ing with GMA to eval­u­ate telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions fees

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - By Adam Cook

The city of Fort Oglethorpe is look­ing to pos­si­bly re­coup some rev­enue from telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion com­pa­nies in the area af­ter ink­ing a deal with the Ge­or­gia Mu­nic­i­pal As­so­ci­a­tion (GMA) to find out if fran­chis­ing fees have been prop­erly paid out.

Dur­ing the June 11 City Coun­cil meet­ing, City Man­ager Jen­nifer PayneSimp­kins ex­plained that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties com­monly re­ceive rev­enue from telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion com­pa­nies, but that the city feels that cer­tain vari­ables have im­pacted how much of the rev­enue has come the city’s way.

We as a city should re­ceive five-per­cent fran­chise fees from any wired com­pany that pro­vides cable or video ser­vices in our com­mu­nity,” PayneSimp­kins said. “We have, to my knowl­edge, not au­dited these com­pa­nies to see that they’re in com­pli­ance and that we’re in com­pli­ance with this rule.”

Payne-Simp­kins and Mayor Earl Gray both pointed out that the city’s lay­out may be part of the prob­lem.

“We also be­lieve there is some telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions rev­enue that we’re likely miss­ing out on be­cause of dif­fer­ent zip codes and dif­fer­ent city ad­dresses where folks

may have a Rossville ad­dress but they’re ac­tu­ally in the city of Fort Oglethorpe,” Payne-Simp­kins ex­plained. “So, GMA of­fers a pro­gram called Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and Right of Way, and they will ac­tu­ally come in and au­dit our cable and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion com­pa­nies’ fran­chise agree­ments to de­ter­mine if we’re be­ing paid cor­rectly.”

The agree­ment with GMA comes at a cost, but Payne-Simp­kins said the cost of the agree­ment is worth the po­ten­tial ben­e­fit.

“If we’re be­ing un­der­paid, they will work with the com­pa­nies to col­lect the past three years of what we’ve been un­der­paid,” she said. “We rec­om­mend ap­proval of this $5,260 con­tract be­cause we be­lieve the ben­e­fit will be much greater than the $5,260.”

The board unan­i­mously ap­proved the con­tract.

“Col­lect all you can,” Coun­cil­man Jim Childs said af­ter the vote.

Mayor Earl Gray be­lieves that the ad­dress­ing of some ar­eas of city is part of the is­sue.

“The prob­lem, some of it, is due to our post of­fice,” Gray said. “I don’t think we have any com­pa­nies that have in­ten­tion­ally been not pay­ing us. Dur­ing my ten­ure of hang­ing around here, we’ve been to Wash­ing­ton three times try­ing to get this thing straight­ened out and we’ve just been beat­ing our heads against the wall. So I per­son­ally think the $5,000 is go­ing to be a good in­vest­ment. I still blame it on the post of­fice. Hope­fully once we get the maps, get some help, and get it to the right peo­ple. … I think it’ll more than pay for the $5,000.”

Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Earl Gray dis­cusses telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion fran­chis­ing fees dur­ing the June 11 City Coun­cil meet­ing. (Ca­toosa News photo/ Adam Cook)

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