Thursday, December 07, 2000

Lebanon might expand city staff

Need for service director seen; tech corps explored

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — City officials are proposing more than a half dozen new positions as they hammer out next year's budget, including two hires in case Lebanon decides to run its high-speed Internet service itself.

        The list of proposed jobs also includes a services director, who would assist the city manager by supervising water and sewer, telecommunications, electric and several other departments.

        The new technical positions would replace local company Go Concepts Inc., which provides Internet service over city-owned cable lines.

        Under a contract that runs until mid-2004, Go Concepts gets $15 per month per residential customer and $25 per month per business customer, leaving the city with $13.95 to $18.95 for each of its 579 subscribers.

        City Manager James Patrick proposed at a finance committee meeting Tuesday that the city set aside $80,000 next year for two technicians. They would operate the network — which includes Internet access, e-mail and data storage — and provide technical support to customers.

        The theory, council members said, is to consolidate services in-house and make more money on the Internet part of the city's $8.2 million telecommunications system.

        However, they are skeptical the city can run the network with two staffers.

        “That's baloney,” Councilman Mark Flick said Wednesday.

        Go Concepts President John Gambill Jr. agreed: “It would be impossible with that minimal a staff to have technical support available at the hours customers expect it.”

        His 14-employee company is staffed 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and has provisions for off-hours needs, he said.

        If staffing and other costs outweigh the extra revenue, several councilmen agreed, there's no point in going solo.

        “I haven't seen numbers that tell me it makes sense yet,” Councilman James Reinhard said.

        A relatively small percentage of customers are interested in the high-speed Internet service, Mr. Flick added. He'd rather focus on other telecommunications services such as telephone.

        Council members are more enthusiastic about iring a services director to free Mr. Patrick for more big-picture efforts.

        “Right now his duties are taking care of the service departments,” Councilmen Ben Cole said.

        The new job would command a salary of about $74,000, Mr. Patrick said. Mr. Flick, in turn, said that means council should raise the manager's $70,000 salary to at least $80,000.

        The budget also will include a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees and, probably, money for a merit pay system that's still in the works.


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