While there’s still a long road ahead, the city moved one step closer to financial order Tuesday night by moving past its 2016 financial audit.
The final step was to sign a representation letter from the firm hired to do the 2016 audit, Mayberry and Co., absolving them from any liability for any wrongdoing in the performance of the audit. Though City Manager John Dougherty was initially uncomfortable signing the document, Council authorized Mayor Mike Lavey to sign it in a 5-2 vote.
The audit can now be filed with the state and other creditors, and the city can move on to its 2017 financial audit. The city is looking for a new company to complete the rest of its audits. Cortez has been unable to apply for state grants or receive its property taxes for roughly a year and a half.
“My recommendation is that we approve the thing and move forward,” said City Attorney Mike Green as Council discussed the letter. “I think it’s time to move on.”
Mayor Lavey was in agreement.
“We’d like to have this audit completed and signed off on so we can apply for grants,” Lavey said. “We’d like to get it done as soon as possible.”
Fiber optic cableCity Council unanimously approved the awarding of the bid for the expansion of fiber optic cable to the airport Tuesday evening. Graybar was the lowest bidder for the purchase at $229,260. Graybar has committed to a May 1 delivery of 36,000 feet of fiber optic cable that will extend broadband down to the intersection of County Road G and U.S. Highway 491. The projected timeline for completion of the entire endeavor is planned for July 1. Cortez and Montezuma County have entered into an agreement to partner together on the project, with each pitching in a matching $300,000. The city is buying the cable and some of the commodity items. Montezuma County will handle the construction.
The project is billed as a gateway for potential partners such as the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments. Proponents of the project also believe it’s a win because the city and county are getting double the amount of fiber broadband network built for half the cost. All the construction is underground.
The project is billed as a gateway for potential partners such as the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments.
“This also plays into the larger regional project of connecting Cortez to Durango and ultimately over to Pagosa and over Wolf Creek Pass and in to Denver,” said Cortez General Services Director Rick Smith. “The county’s been good to work with. It’s been a fun project so far.”
City Council on Tuesday also approved a new contract with its grant writer, Chris Burkett, and restarted the bid process for replacing cameras at Cortez Municipal Airport and discussed a potential ordinance that would reestablish the right of the city to provide its own broadband services.
A state law passed in 2005 prohibits municipal governments from providing their own “advanced services,” which include internet broadband, telecommunications and cable television services. The bill was designed to protect private industries from municipal competition.
But the bill also provides that a municipality can put the issue to voters in an election to determine whether they want the city to provide its own advanced services.
The election is a necessity if the city, through its enterprise, Cortez Community Network, is to expand broadband services throughout the city, especially to residential areas. City Council will likely vote on the issue in February.
“There have already been over 140 other municipalities in Colorado who have already opted
out,” said Councilor Amy Huckins. “We would not be the first.”