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City forms broadband advisory committee

by Marc Hayot | April 16, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

SILOAM SPRINGS -- City Administrator Phillip Patterson will appoint members to a broadband advisory committee to look at bringing broadband service to the city.

During the staff reports section of the April 6 meeting, Patterson approached city board members about putting together a broadband advisory committee based on the board's positive responses to a presentation made by John Lester, general manager of Clarksville Connected Utilities, at the workshop on March 16.

Board members initially agreed to having the mayor appoint the committee members during their meeting on April 6. However after re-reviewing state statutes after the meeting, Patterson said the duty officially falls to the city administrator to nominate the members, subject to the confirmation of the board of directors.

"I would like to establish an advisory committee made up of technical folks from various industries such as Simmons and Cobb," Patterson said. "I'd like to get the school district to be a part of that, JBU to be a part of that, of course our electric department and our IT (information technology) division."

Patterson said Director Lesa Rissler indicated she wanted to participate on the committee and Patterson also reached out to Mark Latham, the former city administrator, to ask if he would participate because of his experience in creating a citywide broadband retail service in another city.

Director David Allen said he also volunteered to be a part of the committee after the presentation by Lester. Patterson said he did not hear Allen mention his desire to be involved nor does he remember it.

Patterson apologized to Allen for not hearing him, but said appointing two board members to the committee could create some challenges. For example, the committee would have to record the meeting, take minutes, and invite the public and the press to comply with Freedom of Information laws, he said.

Having only one board member means meetings can be flexible and if an emergency meeting is required, the city does not have to provide public notice, Patterson said.

Patterson said the decision of whether to have one or two members is up to the board. Each board member weighed in with their thoughts on the subject.

Directors Reid Carroll and Carol Smiley said they preferred to have only one board member serve on the committee. Director Brad Burns said he has served on a committee before and understands the flexibility required for the committee to meet.

Director Mindy Hunt said she had no opinion one way or the other.

"I think the expertise that it sounds like you were wanting to bring is the IT experience, which we will gain from other members of the advisory committee," Hunt said.

Director Marla Sappington pointed out the strengths of both Allen and Rissler and said she believed both of them would be a good addition to the committee.

Rissler said she would be willing to step aside and let Allen be the board representative on the committee.

Allen said he did not understand what the problem was and what extra effort it takes on city staff to let the public know through the press the committee is going to meet.

He also pointed out Rissler has a lot to bring to the committee given her experience working in the IT department for Fayetteville and said there have been other committees with two board members on it and it was not a problem.

"I'm not a bit surprised to hear the opposition from the board members that have spoken against it tonight," Allen said. "It just seems part of the ongoing animosity and I don't quite understand it. I don't understand how this is going to be any different than letting the public know through the press of a city board meeting."

Mayor Judy Nation said said the whole idea is to be able to bring information from different entities.

"We're not trying to hide anything, that's not the idea," Nation said. "It's just to have that flexibility for all of them coming together and I don't see that that's a problem if we only have one director on this commission because all of that information is going to come back to this board, this board is going to hear that."

Hunt did ask if there were two members from any other entity who were on the list for the committee. Patterson said the only two members from a single entity are city employees Glenn Severn from the electric department and Sam Dee from the IT department. The city administrator said he has not asked everyone he is interested in appointing yet.

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