Beaufort County has denied a company's request to reopen bidding for a $2.35 million fiber-optic contract awarded last month to Hargray Communications.
CenturyLink, which appealed the 10-year contract on May 20, says it won't pursue the matter further. The company had the option of making its case directly to County Council.
"We are not going to appeal the decision," said Derek Kelly, a CenturyLink spokesman. "CenturyLink values our relationship with Beaufort County, and we will ... compete for that business going forward."
County officials used "sole-source" procurement for the contract, meaning the job was not opened to bidders. State law allows such contracts when officials determine only one company can meet the myriad requirements for quality, security and other factors.
Never miss a local story.
CenturyLink met minimum specifications for the next-generation E-911 system and offered to build and maintain the network for $309,000 less than Hargray. However, county officials say the company could not deliver the closed, secure network they wanted for the new network.
"It was determined that CenturyLink did not have the ability to provide a dedicated fiber network, known in industry terms as 'dark fiber,' for the delivery of the ... Next Gen E911 system," county purchasing director Dave Thomas wrote in a May 30 letter to the company.
The planned E-911 upgrades would let residents report crimes and seek emergency help using text messages and videos, in addition to phone calls. Money for the system will come from a state fund of 911 surcharges on phone bills.
Emails shared by the county show that Cassidian Communications, the county's E-911 software vendor, recommends but does not require a "dark fiber" network. Cassidian also recommends using a single vendor for the contract rather than multiple companies, the emails indicate.
Thomas' letter indicates CenturyLink planned to use at least one subcontractor.
Based on these factors, county staff proceeded with the Hargray contract, Thomas wrote.
"I was pleased to hear that we can now move forward with this project, and respect the integrity of the process that Beaufort County maintained in evaluating proposals and making their decision," said Christopher McCorkendale, Hargray's vice president of operations, engineering and strategic sales.
Walt Burnside, CenturyLink's regional sales manager, referred questions about the contract dispute to Kelly.
A multinational company based in Monroe, La., CenturyLink offers Internet and phone service throughout the Lowcountry, including much of Beaufort.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.