Dispute with AT&T hits county with monthly overcharges

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Slow negotiations concerning the replacement of an outdated data connection that runs between the Madison County Tax Office and the Madison County Appraisal District have resulted in the county falling out of contract with service provider AT&T and seeing the county’s Internet bill rise from $278 per month to $2,800 per month since January, revealed Monday in County Commissioners’ Court.

Donna Cuevas, assistant to County Judge Tony Leago, told the court Monday that poor response from the communications giant has hindered efforts to get approval to replace the outmoded line – a copper T-1 line – and led to the increased billing. The county continues to pay the prior $278 monthly rate and expects to be credited for the $2,522 billing difference once a new contract is entered.

“This has been a total nightmare,” Leago told Commissioners Monday. “We can’t even get a live person to come sit in the office with us to talk about it.

“This has been going on for months. It’s almost surreal.”

Cuevas said, though the county fell out of contract with the provider in January, it was March before they were able to connect with someone at the company to discuss the matter.

AT&T told the county it could no longer “accommodate” the copper line and needs to replace it with a more modern fiber optic connection. Commissioners approved that replacement unanimously on Monday.

But the new connection will not even come online until near the end of the year, according to Leago.

“Hopefully at that time, they can dial back the overcharges,” he said. “We’ve been very careful to preserve e-mails and all communications with them.”

Leago put part of the blame on the poor communications with AT&T on a lack of competition in the area. He asked Cuevas during the meeting if AT&T were the only game in town. She responded that there are some resellers in the area, but they operate on the same lines as AT&T.

“That’s what happens when you have a monopoly, I guess,” Leago said.

During Monday’s regular meeting, Commissioners also approved an estimate of $3,890 from CR Systems/Aggieland Roofing to repair the roof on the Madison County Annex Building. The roof has had problems for years, Leago said, and the storms in April highlighted many of the issues.

The Annex building has a metal roof, but one with a low pitch and an undersized ridge along the peak of the roof that allows water to blow under during heavy storms.

Commissioners also approved a bid of $13,786.33 from CertaPro Painters to paint the turquoise tiles in the Madison County Courthouse to match the painting scheme of the Annex.

Commissioners rejected a big on 3.2 acres near Highway 21 and Antioch Road in Midway from Uhuru Ndirangu of Christ, a League City resident who has previously purchased land from the county.

When putting the land for sale, the county set a minimum bid of $4,980. Ndirangu’s bid was $1,618.

In 2015 Ndirangu, according to a story in the Meteor, purchased an acre of land in the J.S. Hunter League from the county for $1,300.

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