Fairpoint gets long-awaited, $13 million state contract
By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
CONCORD [-] Gov. Maggie Hassan and the state Executive Council made peace with Fairpoint Communications to the tune of $13 million and a four-year state contract.
But the unanimous vote Wednesday only came after Fairpoint New Hampshire President Patrick McHugh committed to hold public hearings in all five council districts to hear consumer comments about levels of service.
Hassan told reporters Fairpoint officials clearly got the message that they needed to respond even more quickly to complaints that have spiked during the three months that 1,700 technical workers have been on strike.
McHugh said the federal mediator remarked that progress towards a settlement was being made in private talks.
Hassan said some local government officials had also complained to hear office at difficulty with Fairpoint service response since the strike began in October.
McHugh said the company has improved service since the strike began and the firm has more workers on the payroll now than at any time since last fall.
Councilor Colin Van Ostern, D-Concord, said that when councilors intercede problems with Fairpoint get resolved.
``We need to hear more than promises that things are going to get better and public hearings would be a good way to start,'' Van Ostern said.
But Councilor Chris Pappas, D-Manchester, said the escalation in service issues rose with the outbreak of the strike.
``I don't think this is going to go away as a problem with your using private contractors from North Carolina,'' Pappas said.
Hassan said another key change in this contract was to get rid of a provision that would have exempted Fairpoint from any of its terms if there was a strike.
``We needed to remove that to protect the state given the times we are in,'' Hassan said.
Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon said the language was boiler plate in state contracts before the Fairpoint strike had broken out.
Hodgdon had wanted the council to act because the new contract starts July 1 and Fairpoint has committed to making upgrades to its Wi-Fi and telecommunications before it begins.