Town, County partner on broadband project cost

Danielle Jeste

Tue Jan 04 2022 08:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

After a presentation from Lakeview Town Mgr. Michele Parry, the Lake County Board of Commissioners voted to share the initial cost of the application and engineering for a secondary fiberoptic line to be built through Lake County.

After a presentation from Lakeview Town Mgr. Michele Parry, the Lake County Board of Commissioners voted to share the initial cost of the application and engineering for a secondary fiberoptic line to be built through Lake County.

Parry told the Commissioners that she received approval from CTC Technology and Energy after asking if the company would be willing to build a fiberoptic line from the border of Harney and Lake County to the end of Lake County.

She proposed that the Town and County split the cost of the application and engineering for the project. The total initial cost will be approximately $60,000, Parry said. The County agreed to split that with the Town 50/50.

The line would run from Grant County to Harney County to Lake County. Grant County Digital Network is applying for a US Department of Agriculture Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program grant for the project on behalf of parties that include the Town of Lakeview, Lake County, Grant County and Harney County.

Parry said she believes the chance of the grant money being awarded for the project are high. Commissioner Barry Shullanberger emphasized that the process “is a marathon, not a sprint,” noting that this is just the application process.

Parry said if the grant is awarded, “then the complexity quadruples.” Many details will have to be sorted out, including how the project will be handled and how the parties involved will share ownership as there are multiple jurisdictions involved.

Shullanberger said collaborating with Grant County Digital Network is the best chance Lake County currently has to obtain broadband funding. He said Lake County would not be eligible alone because of the engineering and all that needs to be complete before an application is submitted.

Strengthening Lake County’s broadband infrastructure will provide a chance to promote the area and will be useful for emergency services and people working from home, along with many other applications, Parry said.

Shullangberger said an option for the County’s half of the initial project cost would be using American Rescue Plan Act money from the South Central Oregon Economic Development District (SCOEDD).

Commissioner Mark Albertson expressed that while he wants to see broadband for all of Lake County, he was frustrated by the Town’s decision not to partner with the County to fund a code enforcement officer position. “…You guys kind of shot us in the foot there and we ended up taking the whole bill,” he told Parry.

“I just want to bring that to your attention, that sometimes we want to be partners with you on different projects also, and I want to be partners with the Town of Lakeview but just remember that sometimes it’s a give or take and we really needed you guys on that deal … I want to be better partners with the Town of Lakeview and I feel like we’re kind of fractured,” he explained.

Parry said the Town’s problem with the code enforcement officer position was that “we needed more information,” adding, “It wasn’t about the money.”

Albertson said he sent the Town close to 12 emails about the matter but Parry countered that the emails were more of an “information dump” than clearly outlined details.

Ultimately, both agreed that they want the County and Town to have a better relationship.

Lake District Hospital IT Director Steven Vance appeared virtually during the meeting and noted that broadband is extremely important for the hospital. He stressed that a project manager will be critical for the project and said a second fiberoptic line is “something the hospital is very interested in making happen.”

While Lake County has been working with another company for fiberoptic, bringing a second company in “creates a level of competitiveness,” makes prices more competitive and starts to get the process going, Vance described. He said getting a secondary fiberoptic line into Lake County will allow the area to be less dependent on the fiberoptic spur coming from Klamath Falls into Lakeview.

Parry noted that John Day owns the digital network so the line will come from their fiber. “Even though we’ll be connected to a multijurisdictional fiber line, once it gets here, it’s ours,” she told the Commissioners.

Shullanberger said there is a lot of risk involved in putting up the money for the initial application and engineering. “We may be told no and may have to apply again,” he said of the grant, but added that it will get Lake County on the radar.

“Even if we’re told ‘no’ the first time around, we’ll have a ready project,” Commissioner James Williams said.

The Commissioners opted to use ARPA dollars from SCOEDD for the County’s half of the initial project cost.