Lake Norman & Mooresville

Huntersville wonders about big cable bill

The town of Huntersville owes Mecklenburg County almost $500,000, but the town board says it isn't sure it needs to pay the bill.

The debate is over the final bill from the costs of creating the MI-Connection cable consortium, which started after the bankruptcy of the Adelphia cable franchise. Huntersville backed out of the consortium, which now includes subscribers in the towns of Cornelius, Davidson and Mooresville, so commissioners say they shouldn't have to pay the remaining balance from the new company.

“The question is, do we really owe the money?” commissioner Ron Julian said. “What were the services they did for us. Did we get what we paid for? It's just like asking someone to mow your lawn. Did you get what you needed?”

Mecklenburg County has already settled the debts with consultants who helped create MI-Connection, and now the county wants Huntersville to pay the county to clear up its share. If the town refuses to pay, Mecklenburg County could then try to get the money from MI-Connection. Julian said he doesn't recommend pursuing litigation but hoped the town could work something out with the county if it determines that it doesn't owe all or part of the bill.

The commissioners voted unanimously to recognize the bill – something town finance director Janet Stoner said was needed to abide by general statutes – but commissioners told its staff not to pay until the staff determined whether the town has a valid argument to dispute the bill. The commissioners already had more than $420,000 available to pay the bill but then had to approve an additional $80,000 to cover the final cost.

Huntersville Town Manager Greg Ferguson said his staff recommends that the town pay the bill to Mecklenburg County.

“We recommended that they pay the bill as presented,” he said. “If there are specific concerns with the amount of parts or pieces of the bill, we will be happy to investigate to answer those questions.”

Ferguson said the town could try to negotiate with Mecklenburg County later if parts of the bill are disputed. He said an initial report could be ready for the town board by its Tuesday night meeting.