With Wiscasset selectmen and the broadband committee set to talk Jan. 17, the possible cost of one option looks steeper than at the committee’s last meeting, said committee member and Lincoln County Connectivity Booster Evan Goodkowsy. He told Wiscasset Newspaper in a phone interview Jan. 16, new information from the state indicates, for a Wiscasset application to Maine Connectivity Authority to be competitive in seeking a municipally owned broadband system, the town could have to contribute $1,400 a household instead of the earlier figured $700.
That would put the local match on a grant for the municipal option at about $2.6 million instead of $1.3 million, Goodkowsky said.
Based on recommendations from the Authority’s Last-Mile Infrastructure Grants Committee on a set of current applications, it appears “there’s a lot of competitive projects out there and the state’s really emphasizing projects that have a higher level of funding,” Goodkowsky said. Given this, “I think it makes more sense for Wiscasset to go with Consolidated, politically,” due to a private system’s lower cost to the town, he said.
Interviewed separately Jan. 16, Selectman Dusty Jones, a board liaison to the broadband committee, said he has supported municipally owned as “something that would be great to have if it is realistic to afford.” When the private prospect has “clouded the discussion” of the public option’s feasibility, he has gotten “louder, so that the work of the committee can get done. So I have just been pushing the competition out of the process until we can objectively look at (this),” he said. Municipally owned “has the potential to be such a good thing for Wiscasset, I just felt like I needed to fight to keep that side of the debate.”
He plans to look at the updated numbers to prepare for the Jan. 17 discussion. The earlier number of $1.3 million to get the town a $5 million system had him excited, he said. “But if it’s going to be double that, then that would make it a whole lot harder to justify ... Not impossible, but definitely harder,” he added.
“Data always shapes and reshapes my thoughts.”
Ahead of the meeting, Goodkowsky sent officials materials including the broadband committee’s chart that compares the public and private options. It describes provider-owned as corporately controlled, with the town contributing a match and “assum(ing) no risk”; the chart states the public option “can keep rates affordable for consumers, ensuring equity for years to come,” can change providers “after (a) contract period,” and “after (the) bond is paid, revenues are possible.”
Also Jan. 17, selectmen are set to take up reappointing Ray Soule and Ervin Deck to the airport advisory committee and Stephen Wallace to the planning board; Huntoon Hill Grange’s 2023 request to run beano and sealed ticket games of chance; and to discuss a legal matter in executive session.
Among department heads’ December reports in the meeting’s supporting documents, released Jan. 12, Wiscasset Municipal Airport Manager Richard Tetrev noted the part the airport and town staff had in getting an infant from LincolnHealth’s Miles campus in Damariscotta to a Massachusetts hospital.
“In that emergency, Wiscasset’s ambulance, driven by Town Manager (and former EMS director) Dennis Simmons, a LifeFlight helicopter and King Air were all involved in saving a life,” Tetrev wrote.
The board meets at 6 p.m. at the town office. Or to join the meeting via Zoom, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89949074298?pwd=UllSQTRtd1RqQ1YvSEV5T0l6UWNsQT09
Meeting ID: 899 4907 4298
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