Optimism about an on-schedule completion of the new Dent County Jail began to fade this week with news that CenturyLink is slowing progress by delaying movement of a utility pole on the jail property.

Project manager Dwight Ramsburg of Septagon told county commissioners at the Monday meeting that CenturyLink has been uncooperative and has “used almost every excuse” since last October to avoid moving the pole.

“We’re having problems with CenturyLink getting this pole moved,” he said. “The latest and greatest news is that the cable they ordered months ago is damaged. They have to reorder.”

He added, “We don’t know how long it’s going to take, but it’s starting to impede the progress.” Ramsburg said he had been dealing with a local representative but is now dealing with an official in Little Rock, Arkansas. The results have been the same.

Ramsburg presented a press release to the commission with the headline, “CenturyLink slows progress of new county jail.”

It states that “Since October 2018, CenturyLink has used almost every excuse to avoid moving a utility pole on the jail’s property boundary. All efforts have been used to delay the movement of this pole. (It was) originally a four to eight-week process that started in October.

“In November, a proposal was given asking for some form of reimbursement. An offer was made. CenturyLink then wanted full payment prior to the pole being moved.”

“One of the snags we had was they presented contract to do the work for $29,000, then they demanded payment up front,” said Presiding Commissioner Darrell Skiles. “We argued that the county doesn’t pay for work prior to it being done.”

After reviewing the contract and spotting a provision that advance payment doesn’t apply to government entities, CenturyLink finally agreed, Skiles said.

The press release said CenturyLink also claimed that “water blocks” were damaged. “After that, there was not enough space in the manhole for all the extra equipment…What could possibly be next? The people of Dent County deserve better from CenturyLink,” it concluded.

“I agree wholeheartedly,” Skiles said. “It’s very frustrating.”

“We’re starting to dig that northwest ramp and retaining wall,” Ramsburg said. “We need that dirt out of there so we can do all that, plus that dirt is used to backfill the building on the southeast.”

Also Monday, the commission heard a sales tax report from Treasurer Denita Williams on receipts received in early June for the month of May.

Sales tax from the two half-cent jail taxes now total over $870,000 in 2019, up $16,983 for the year to date. Receipts for May were $65,601 for each tax, down $12,959 from the same period last year.

Receipts for the general revenue and law enforcement sales taxes each totaled $71,251 for the past month, down $16,804 from the same period last year. Road and bridge tax receipts were $32,843, down from $39,443 a year ago.

Under commission reports, First District Commissioner Dennis Purcell said crews would be grading on county roads 6220 and 6240 and hauling materials to those roads. Patch grading was planned on 4235 and ditch work on 5050, and materials would be hauled to 5050 and 4080. A driveway culvert was being installed Monday morning on 6020. A crew member was also working on installing bearings in the brush cutter.

In the second district, road supervisor Sam Gorman reported for Commissioner Gary Larson. He said grading was underway on county road 2610, 2613, 2580, 4030 and 4280 and cutting brush on 3020 and 3030. Materials were being hauled to 4030 and installing pipe on that road.

At the Thursday meeting, Purcell reported crews would be grading and hauling material to county road 6220, grading on 2440, hauling material to 5500, 4080 and 6245 and cutting brush on 4110.

In the Second District, Larson said grading would be done on county roads 5340, 2120, 2150, hauling material to 5340, and brush cutting on 3200, 2630, 2640 and 2620. Crews were also repairing washouts on 4010 and 3370.