*** BREAKING NEWS ***
$58,014 PAID TO DATE
In response to my Right to Know request to the city, I have received the invoices for February and March from the law firm of Best Best & Krieger. They are “negotiating” with PP&L on behalf of the city over MAW Communication’s attachments to their poles for the LanCity Connect internet broadband project.
I will post the itemized invoices in the next few days but these are the totals billed:
— Through February 28: $22,866
— Through March 31: $12,408
Along with the previously published invoices for December 2017 ($4,203) and January 2018 ($18,537), this brings the total paid through March 31st to $58,014.
[Editor’s note: This does not include payments to the Pittsburgh law firm of the Cohen Law Group who has also been hired by the city to represent the city and MAW in court over PP&L’s lawsuit against MAW. I have also requested those invoices and will publish them when received.]
TO OVER $5,000,000!
** The full text of Bill Weisser’s excellent comment to City Council last night:
I’m here tonight extremely disappointed and angry regarding my city government’s administration of the Lancity Connect project.
The recent news that PP&L has now been authorized by the court to begin removing the unauthorized attachments signals the complete failure of MAW Communications and Lancaster City to effectively establish a municipal broadband network.
The most aggravating part is this entire lawsuit was completely avoidable through effective project management and professional due diligence to ensure the laws and processes regarding pole attachments were being followed from the get-go.
Since the news first broke over 5 months ago, we have all witnessed a slow-motion train wreck unfold. During this time the City poured additional public funds into a futile legal defense of their consultant, MAW Communications, when the outcome announced May 3rd was almost guaranteed. It needs to be understood that this was a result of MAW’s failure and that PPL’s complaints are not unreasonable.
The City owes its residents to take a painful look at how this situation came to pass, be honest with the public regarding what took place and hold its consultant, MAW, and itself accountable to ensure a similar failure does not occur in the future.
If consideration is being given to continue this project, MAW needs to be jettisoned, and a new capable consultant brought on-board. They have proven without a shadow of a doubt their inability to complete a project of the size and complexity. Their primary legal defense against PPL’s motion to find them in contempt was rooted in their incompetence in the fact they did not keep detailed records of their pole attachments.
Since the lawsuit was announced, I have previously been before council on December 19, January 24, met privately with city officials on January 19, and provided detailed reference material advocating that the City’s path forward was not correct and that MAW was no longer (if ever) a reliable partner for this project.
But, before the lawsuit there were many signs of MAWs incompetence and mismanagement of this project. The project was initially presented to the public via a LNP article on February 25, 2015 in which the city provided the total public cost would be $500,000 and reach 2/3 of the city by the end of 2015. Initial rollout was obviously slower and at the end of 2015 the city was quoted as saying rollout to residents and businesses would be complete by the end of 2016.
Rollout finally began in the spring of 2017. At some point during this delay the cost of the project skyrocketed, with no justification provided by city officials. As reported by LNP on March 1st 2017, the city had spent $1.7 million dollars on MAW and requested from council an additional 3 million dollar loan. When seeking this funding approval the City was adamant that there was little to no risk.
During the rollout (summer 2017) a series of serious missteps were reported that demonstrated MAW’s inability to handle this project including poor quality work, inability to maintain project schedules, and questionable IT practices.
Recently MAW’s spokesman has indicated that this ruling provides a path forward allowing pole attachments to be submitted to PPL via their attachment process and that PPL would be required to promptly review them. This isn’t a “win,” as this is the appropriate pole attachment process defined by PPL and Federal Law.
Mayor Gray’s rationale for requesting funding to support legal challenges was that following these procedures and their associated “make-ready” requirements would be too costly for LANC-City connect. The CFR and FCC regulatory guidance has been in place since 2011 to provide timelines for pole owners to review attachment requests, only deny them for legitimate engineering rational, and outline an appropriate dispute process. Again, if the appropriate processes were followed from project inception this entire issue could have been avoided.
The city needs to be honest and hold itself accountable and recognize that PPL has not acted in an unreasonable manner.
* Officer Caple addressed a grieving family member of an unsolved murder this way on Lancaster Online’s Facebook page (I have redacted the name). Maybe the new Chief, Jarrad Berkihiser, could explain the cameras and their failure to the public. Yes, the cameras “rotate,” but they do it very quickly and with two cameras at the crime scene they certainly had to catch something. When will this murder be solved, Chief Berkihiser?
AND TWO BAD COPS!
The court hearing for a permanent Protection From Abuse order against Lancaster City Police Officer Jonathan Caple scheduled for yesterday was continued until this coming Tuesday, May 15th. There will be much more to come on this.
Bill Weisser addressed city council again last night and said MAW Communications and their LanCity Connect internet program has been a “slow motion train wreck.” He demanded accountability from the city.
It was excellent and I will have a full transcript of his remarks to council here later today (you can watch the entire meeting here). On Friday, I submitted two Right to Know requests to the city for the latest invoices from the two law firms the city has hired on MAW’s behalf.
Lancaster City Councilman Pete Soto does not even know how to pronounce “Berkihiser.” In one of the worst and most inexplicable decisions as mayor to date, Danene Sorace has appointed acting Lancaster City Police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser as the chief (click here for LNP’s “Lancaster’s acting police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser to stay on as chief”). There will be much more on this to come.
Please check back later today.