The federally funded project to expand broadband access throughout Columbia County hit a snag recently when bids for work on the latest portion came in far higher than budgeted.
Phase 6 of the project, which includes finishing connections of fiber-optic cable now buried throughout the county and taking the connections inside county buildings, is budgeted at $950,000, said Finance Director Leanne Reece.
Yet two bids on that portion of the project came in at $1.77 million and $2.87 million.
Explaining the difference between the bids and the budget, County Administrator Scott Johnson said officials had “underestimated” the amount of work needed.
“A lot of things have been lumped into that last phase,” Johnson said.
The final portions now will be split between private contractors and rebid. County workers will handle some of the project, Johnson added.
The information was shared during the year’s first meeting of the county’s Management and Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, and rejection of the bids will go to the full commission this week for approval.
Also expected to be debated at that meeting is a proposal from commission Chairman Ron Cross, who wants to ask members of the county’s legislative delegation to place a binding referendum on county ballots for voters to decide whether to limit commissioners to two consecutive terms in office.
“I’m in favor of term limits, though of course I’m not a good example to say,” said Cross, who is serving his third four-year term as the county’s first elected chairman.
If approved by commissioners, enacted by lawmakers and ratified by voters, the proposal would limit commissioners and the chairman to two four-year terms. Any member then would be required to sit out for at least one year before seeking the same office again.
The measure would not apply to members of the school board unless lawmakers included them as part of the referendum. Those offices share the same districts as commissioners.