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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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North Florida Broadband Authority: Small vendors in big trouble | NFEDP/FSU's Hendry may resign

Winding down and still in trouble

As the October 7, 2011 North Florida Broadband Authority emergency meeting wound down, NGN's Encinosa told the Board, "From a financial perspective there is not really a lot of financial activity at the moment, since the grant funds were stopped.

GSG's financial expert, Krystal Strickland could sit no more. She stood up in the back of the room and told the Board so everyone could hear:

I have to say the contractors kept on working right up and in through August. The invoices are still coming in for all the work they completed. There are a tremendous number of the invoices that have been set aside over these past several months since the money stopped. There is a tremendous amount of work that has to be done, if the money does come back, before we are able to pay people.

One small contractor that trusted the NFBA

On October 11, 2011, Jerri Chaires contacted the Observer. This is her story. It is similar to those of other small contractors that trusted the NFBA. The questions are obvious:

My name is Jerri Chaires. My husband began Independent Network Services 10 years ago. We are a small family company. We have 7 people working for us. I don't know who to contact to try and get paid. They owe us $114,000 and that will sink our company.
We are a family of five trying to get by. This was federal money and we thought we would get paid and we haven’t. We started invoicing in June and our last invoice was August 1st.
We have to borrow off of our home equity line just to keep our business afloat right now, because of this. We are taking money out of our own personal equity line to pay our payroll.
Someone in our office spoke with GSG, and according to him, he was told that they were holding an $80,000 check for us.
I don't see why the government's not just stepping in and saying -- we have people who did this work and have paid money out of their pockets. Let's bypass the NFBA and let's bypass GSG and let's pay these contractors who did the work and were on the towers.

The Final Act – The NFEDP's Jeff Hendry – The last man standing

Chairman Fulford, always respecting everybody's right to contribute to the conversation, gave the floor to Jeff Hendry on his request.

FSU's Mr. Hendry, who's consulting contract with the NFEDP/NFBA is worth $10,000 a month, said he was doing some soul searching, that this was the signature project of his career and he was thinking of resigning.

He said he would advise the full NFBA Board of his decision at the next meeting on October 19th.

Epilogue

Jeff Hendry is the last man standing of the original group that brought this worthwhile and life changing project, financed by the American people, to North Central Florida. Every one of the major players has been forced to resign or voluntarily resigned, depending on one's point of view, by the Federal Government, or as most on the Board want to believe, by Bradford County, Rapid Systems or anyone else they can blame or point a finger at.

The Federal Government is continuing its investigation. Folks who have felt so strongly about what they have seen have been granted whistleblower status, something not to be taken lightly, as this can be a career and business breaker.

Everyone that has resigned may well find vindication in not being indicted, but clearly there has been a lot more going on here than "Why is everyone always pickin' on me." And that particularly goes for the present NFBA board members, also.

The NFBA Board would do well to listen carefully to Mr. Hendry's words and do some soul searching of their own. 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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