INDEPENDENCE — Monmouth-Independence Networks may start providing services to the city of Jefferson, said Don Patten, general manager of Minet.
“We’re going to put our beta test over in Jefferson as early as next week,” he said at Thursday’s board meeting. “I want that revenue coming in, and Jefferson is just pummeling me to get this thing moving.”
Patten said the Jefferson city council has come to consensus to move ahead with business planning, engineering, an intergovernmental agreement and setting up a beta test.
He said the city has 1,200 potential customers, and has guaranteed Minet would have 600 new customers for internet along with telephone hookups. Patten estimated the annual revenue at $265,000 to $295,000 from the venture.
Patten noted that Minet would have to consider increasing staffing to accommodate the agreement with Jefferson, as well as any other expansion opportunities.
According to the current intergovernmental agreement between the cities of Monmouth and Independence, dated 2009 — which is the governing document for Minet — all new service agreements must be approved by the Minet board of directors with a two-thirds vote.
The proposal with Jefferson was not voted on by the board at its Thursday meeting.
Board member Scott McClure said the board needs to have a full discussion on whether or not to move forward with the arrangement with Jefferson — and any future expansions.
“We want to know what projected revenues are; what expenses are; what staffing needs are,” McClure said. “And also just cash flow issues. Are we now front-loading some costs, and then that plays into when the revenue starts kicking in.”
McClure said the board will be getting questions and needs to have the information to answer those questions.
In the last year, the cities of Monmouth and Independence have been asked to cover debt payments on behalf of Minet of about $800,000.
“We’ve never had the most robust sales and marketing,” McClure said. “But now we’re going to a whole new market. Do you need a Jefferson specialist? Knocking on doors in Jefferson, that’s their job? Or do we need to be taking ads out in their local newspaper? What do we need to do to go into a new market?”
Patten said the finance committee has vetted the plan to provide services to Jefferson.
McClure said that, while he appreciates that the finance committee is there to go over plans, the board needs to see a plan and be comfortable with the decision.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, corporate finance officer Mark Thoenes and finance committee member Gary Van Horn presented the final draft of Minet’s mission and value statements.
Board member Jon Carey said he appreciated the sense of ownership Minet employees have taken with the company, but noted that the debt service was not specifically mentioned in the statement.
“The biggest heartburn people have about Minet is it doesn’t meet the debt service, and the impact on city budgets both in Independence and Monmouth,” he said. “I don’t see that addressed.”
Thoenes said a goal mentions debt service improvement.
John Cooper, Minet employee, said the debt service is a sore subject and shouldn’t be brought into a core values statement.
“You want to say you’re making strides to improve the situation without saying what the situation is in its entirety,” he said.
McClure disagreed, requesting that speaking specifically about the debt could be done in a nice and professional way — not negatively — but it needs to be put in somewhere.
“I appreciate what you’re saying,” Thoenes said. “That’s not the vision or the mission of the company. That’s not why the company was put into existence. The company didn’t take the debt; someone else put the debt on the company. The company is here to go out and increase its value to its maximum. Then, once we have a plan for that, hopefully it will be sufficient to service the debt. I don’t think becoming debt solvent is a vision or mission of the company.”
“It’s not, but it ought to be part and parcel of the strategic plan,” Carey said.
“They don’t want Minet to become a great company and the cities are still stuck with the debt,” he said.
In the future, the Minet board of directors will use more executive sessions to discuss details about expansion plans, board member Greg Ellis said.
He suggested they use the public records law relating to trade secrets.
McClure agreed saying, “It’s the interesting thing as a public entity. You have to do certain things quietly, but the public doesn’t appreciate that.”
The next scheduled Minet board meeting is for 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 22 at the Henry Hill Educational Support Center, 750 S. Fifth St.