If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Supervisors voice concerns, look at alternatives for phone and internet services
By RUSSELL TURNER
The Greene County Board of Supervisors is considering a move away from TDS Telecom for phone and internet services for county offices in Leakesville and at district maintenance barns and other locations outside the county seat.
Supervisors met with representatives from TDS and C-Spire on Monday. Both companies presented proposals to county leaders for the services, but the lion’s share of the meeting focused on the frustration supervisors said they and their constituents around the county have with the local service provider.
Supervisors met with representatives from the two entities several weeks ago and had invited both back to make proposals at Monday’s meeting. That first meeting featured several tense moments as supervisors hounded senior TDS managers Joel Mullins and Jonathan Dzermejko over their displeasure with the quality of service and customer relations from the company.
Major difficulties with phone and internet service at the courthouse prior to and on election day (Nov. 27) didn’t help the elected officials’ feelings on the matter and they let Mullins and Dzermejko know that on Monday. The TDS reps told supervisors the problem was with a 6-year-old piece of equipment, but that was not what supervisors wanted to hear.
“The service we are getting in this county is unacceptable,” District Two Supervisor Morris Hill told Mullins and Dzermejko at the meeting. “(Waiting) four-to-five days (for service repairs) is unacceptable. Four-to-five hours, for that matter, when you are trying to run government and provide critical services, is unacceptable.”
“It boils down to piss-poor organizational structure. You have an office here in Leakesville and it is locked up like a foreign embassy.”
Hill and his fellow board members told the men they were not only speaking for the county as government officials, but were are also speaking up for county residents.
“We hear these complaints and concerns all the time from our constituents,” Hill added. “Our people want and deserve better.”
It was the second appearance the two men had made in the board room in recent weeks and both times supervisors unloaded on them with complaints and harsh criticism of their company’s service. On Monday, Hill said it was unfortunate they were put in the position of having to take the brunt of the frustration that has built up over the years.
“You should be videoing this and sending it to the folks in Madison, Wisconsin (where the TDS headquarters are located),” he added.
Board President Wayne Barrow echoed Hill’s sentiments, but took the argument further by saying the county had been taken advantage of by the company due to a lack of other telecommunication options.
“For three years we paid $4,500 per month for a system, you yourself admitted would not work,” Barrow said, referencing a system supervisors were sold for county offices, including the five road district headquarters.
Barrow said those systems had never worked as promised and that TDS had not only failed to replace or repair them, but had basically turned a deaf ear to the county’s concerns. Dist. One Supervisor G.L. Dearman agreed.
“My facility is three miles from where we are sitting right now,” Dearman said. “And, I have not had a phone that worked for three years.”
The TDS officials responded by saying the company did not have an option to offer the county at the time.
“But you were still charging us each month despite that,” Hill countered.
Chancery Clerk Michelle ‘Shelly’ Eubanks, who also serves as clerk of the board of supervisors, said she too is frustrated with the quality of service and customer service from the company, both at work and at home.
“The bottom line is you people don’t hear us when we say we need help, when we need repairs,” Eubanks said.
After spending quite a bit of time with TDS, supervisors then heard a proposal from C-Spire, who would use a third party vendor to bring hi-speed telecommunications fiber into the courthouse to feed the internet needs of county offices on the courthouse square, as well as facilities such as the tax assessor’s office a couple of blocks away. Those facilities are already connected to the main telecommunications network in the courthouse by fiber. C-Spire’s offer also included telephone service via a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) system.
Supervisors took the matter under advisement and told representatives from both companies they would be notified of the county’s decision.
Mullins told supervisors before leaving that regardless which direction supervisors chose to go TDS would continue working to improve service and rebuild the relationship with the supervisors and their customer base.
“We are always trying to improve,” Mullins said. “The decisions you make today will not have a bearing on what TDS will do moving forward. Either way, we will continue to try to improve and expand the services we offer in Greene County.”
In other business supervisors:
– renewed a $7,500 per year agreement with USDA contractors for beaver control efforts in the county where roads, bridges or other county infrastructure is impacted;
– agreed to help fund a fireworks display in the Town of Leakesville this coming weekend through a $750 payment to the town to advertise and promote the county;
– heard a report from Dr. Jesse Smith of Jones College and Greene County Center Director Richard Fleming regarding the county’s tuition assistance program for county residents; and
– accepted the resignation of Brandy Hambright as public defender as the Leakesville native was recently elected as a Circuit Court Judge in Mobile County, Ala.