Salisbury councilwoman takes on "the rumor" during open meeting

Published: Dec. 18, 2014 at 11:56 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 18, 2014 at 12:42 PM EST
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SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Maggie Blackwell has had it. "Enough already," she says, about a rumor that has bothered her for more than a year. She took on that rumor during Tuesday's City Council meeting in an attempt to show the world that some would rather deal in rumors than truth.

The bottom line; the City of Salisbury has never moved money around in order to prop up the broadband utility know as Fibrant.

"We have a few persistent citizens who say this when we see them," Blackwell wrote in an email response to questions from WBTV.

The questions were prompted by Blackwell's unusual action during Tuesday's regular meeting of the Salisbury City Council.

A presentation about Fibrant was being made, and it showed that the utility was now operating in the black for the first time since it began in 2010. The audit showed a profit of $229,000 for the fiscal year 2013-14.  It also noted that the subscriber base was now up to 3,200 customers.

But for Blackwell, the seemingly good news about Fibrant wasn't enough. She threw the rumor out there for everyone to see.

"There are rumors in town that say the increase in property tax or other funding is being secretly funneled to make Fibrant look good," she said.

She then asked interim City Manager John Sofley, "Have we channeled money, cash, to Fibrant to make it appear that it's cash positive?" Sofley said no.

Blackwell then put the question to the auditor, Tonya Marshall with Martin Starnes and Associates, asking Marshall if she'd found anything suspicious in her audit. Marshall said she hadn't.

"Our city is fortunate to have a state of the art utility providing gigabyte speeds," Blackwell said. "We have thousands of customers who are thrilled with our level of service and local support. Yet the rumor seems to persist in Salisbury that our government is secretly channeling funds to Fibrant for its survival."

"I see this rumor emanating from two camps; those who don't want us to succeed, and those who follow a blog that spreads lies and negativity.  The blog makes untrue statements and then ask questions. We provide hard data," Blackwell wrote.  "Our books are open to the public. Tuesday was a great opportunity, having the independent auditor there, to address the rumor head on. The auditor has examined our books in detail and stated on Tuesday that there were not transactions channeling funds into Fibrant from the general budget. At some point, those who want the truth will realize we are being 100% transparent here."

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