Efforts to bring cable television to Montgomery County were set back last week when only one firm bid for the job of county cable TV consultant.
The lack of response may ultimately cause a slow-down in the selection of a firm to build a cable TV system for the county -- a valuable franchise that is likely to be the object of spirited competition. The franchise was initially expected to be awarded November 1981.
County officials said they would decide this week whether to reopen bids or change the qualification requirements.
"Everyone involved in the selection process is extremely disappointed," said John Hansman, the county's cable television manager. "We (the county staff) would have preferred to have more competition. We will meet this week to decide the next step, but I'm not sure what we will do. We may have to send the entire thing (the contract proposal) back to the contract review committee."
Hansman said the county had hoped for a much better response after sending about 25 letters to cable consultant companies across the nation soliciting applications.
"We didn't expect to get reponses from all of them. In fact, relatively few companies can provide the full range of services a large county like Montgomery needs, but we did expect to get a least a few," Hansman said.
Hansman attributed the lack of response to both the short period provided in which to reply and the provision requiring that the consultant sever all business relationships with applicants for the franchise.
Malarkey, Taylor and Associates, Inc., a major consultant company expected to apply, informed Hansman last week that the company would not be applying because the conflict-of-interest requirements were unrealistic.
"We felt the county was imposing restrictions that would obviate being able to do business with anyone else in the industry," said Martin Malarkey. "We could not afford to do that. We are consultants not only for the public sector, but also for the private sector."
Malarkey continued, "Cable companies usually have franchises elsewhere. If a company applying for the Montgomery franchise contacted us (Malarkey, Taylor and Associates) about a a technical problem, let's say, in Oklahoma and asked us to find out what was wrong, I would see absolutely no conflict of interest in helping them out. One franchise has nothing to do with the other."
If the county's conflict-of-interest regulations were lessened, Malarkey said his firm would seriously consider applying for the consultant position.
"It's close to home, we know Montgomery County, and we would be delighted to have and opportunity to work with them again," he said.
Malarkey's company performed a cable study for the county about six years ago, according to Malarkey.
The one firm that did apply, Telecommunications Management Inc., a California-based firm, is well qualified to serve the sophisticated and complex needs of Montgomery County, Malarkey said.
"Only a handful of companies can provide the services the county needs, and Telecommunications is one of them."
In addition to a delay over the selection of the consultant, county spokesman Charles Maier said there has been a delay in the approval of the county's cable television advisory committee. Maier said three of the 16 appointees were unable to meet Tuesday with council members for interviews.
The council had initially been scheduled to vote on the nominees next week, but Maier said that decision will most likely be postponed until the following week.
"It's very unusual that interviews are being held at all," he said. "But, I guess, the council wants to ensure that whole cable television process in the county is squeaking clean," Maier said.