ConnectME Authority on Wednesday approved Westport Island’s $225,542 request to expand broadband.
“Oh, fantastic,” town broadband and cable committee member Jeff Tarbox said when Wiscasset Newspaper gave him the news following ConnectME’s Zoom meeting; he could not attend, due to another Zoom meeting. “It’s going to provide an affordable option for people who aren’t served today,” Tarbox said of the project to expand high speed internet access to about 205 homes and businesses.
The town proposed a $626,507 project using $338,314 from Spectrum, a $62,651 local match and the rest from ConnectME. The Authority’s board voted unanimously, except for one abstention, to award a total of $8,621,323 in 20 grants, including Westport Island’s.
The town’s proposal scored a 92 out of a possible 110; 92 was the lowest score to win a grant; the highest score this funding round was the 101 for a Dover-Foxcroft area project. The board turned down 18 proposals, with scores from a low of 36 for Belgrade and Finntown Road, Waldoboro projects to a high of 90 for a Norridgewock one, according to supporting documents for the meeting.
ConnectME officials said provider and local matches largely drove the grants committee’s recommendations this round.
April 10, Westport Island voters in an outdoor special town meeting agreed to create a broadband grant match account and transfer $42,834.46 from unappropriated surplus, and $19,816.54 voters approved last year for broadband costs, into the new account for the $62,651 local match. Voters also agreed to tap expected American Rescue Plan funds to repay surplus to the extent allowed, and authorize selectmen to disburse funds from the broadband match account for project costs without another town meeting.