By Tim Leeds
John Magyar, general manager of Triangle Telephone Cooperative (TTC,) said he was surprised to see that the Advantage Line negotiations were "in our court."
"It's been out of our court for a long time," he said.
Advantage Line President Mark Hardy said Wednesday that the decision whether to use TTC to provide telephone service to his proposed inbound call center hadn't been decided yet. He said he had made a proposal to TTC and it was up to them whether or not to accept.
Magyar said TTC quoted prices to Hardy some time ago, but that Hardy has said he got better prices from AT&T and is going with them for the service. Magyar said TTC hasn't had negotiations with Advantage Line for some time.
Craig Erickson, planner for Bear Paw Development Corporation North Montana, said the only things holding up the Advantage Line negotiations right now are the contingencies placed on the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds by the Montana Department of Commerce (DOC.)
The application for the grant, which would be used to reimburse Advantage Line $2,500 for every full-time position created by the company, was written under the assumption that every full-time equivalent (FTE) position would qualify for reimbursement. The contingency placed on the application by the DOC is that Advantage Line will be reimbursed for every qualified employee with 1,600 hours per year and full-time benefits.
Hardy said he needs to know if multiple positions which combine to meet the DOC requirements will qualify for reimbursement. He said because of the flex-time scheduling used by Advantage Line, the company doesn't have many single individuals who meet those requirements.
Erickson said the DOC CDBG committee was faxed a copy of a letter requesting clarification yesterday, with another copy sent in the mail today. He said they should know the answer early next week, if not today or tomorrow.
Erickson said TTC has not been a problem in the negotiations whatsoever.
"Rick Stevens and everyone at Triangle has bent over backwards to make sure this would work," he said. "Triangle has been nothing but helpful in this process."
Magyar said they put together a price for Hardy at their own cost, with no profit for TTC. He said he assumes the lower price from AT&T must be at a discount of the actual cost to provide the service and equipment. He said TTC can't do that, because it would put the cost of providing the service on the cooperative's membership.
He said he can't be in a situation where he is charging long-term members one price, and charge a new member a different, lower price.
"I see that as a non-cooperative thing to do," he said.
Magyar said even if Hardy had chosen TTC to provide the service, he still would have had to pick someone, such as MCI or AT&T, to provide the long distance transport anyway. He said TTC can't compete to provide national long-distance transport.
Magyar said someone will still have to come in and lay out the infrastructure needed to provide the service Hardy needs. He said AT&T will need TTC, U.S. West or someone to provide the necessary hookups for the service before they can provide the long distance transport from the center.