Chanute city commissioners contemplated the issue of fiber optic internet service to homes during Monday evening’s meeting after bids for the project came in higher than expected.
City Manager Jeff Cantrell previously brought the question to the commission about fiber service to two neighborhoods. An engineer estimated the project to total $551,000 for both neighborhoods, but new cost estimates come in at $777,000. Cantrell said by trimming some of the count, the project would cost $650,000.
Information Technology Manager Rick Willis said that part of the price increase is because the project originally planned on using one-gigabyte equipment, which suppliers are phasing out in favor of 10-gigabyte equipment.
Cantrell said the $777,000 cost figured that all home occupants would want the connection, but the lower cost estimate expects 200 homes total from both neighborhoods.
In the end, the commission authorized the increased expense, with Commissioners Tim Fairchild and Phil Chaney opposed.
Fairchild said he was frustrated and he wanted to develop an approach so that people in other areas would know how to move forward. He said it is not fair to not tell people how and when they can get service.
“I feel like it’s not just,” he said.
The original intention was that the construction cost would come from the city’s electrical fund and would be paid back from the fiber fees to customers. Chaney and Fairchild expressed concerns about the actual percentage of customers who would sign up.
Chaney said the city could put $500,000 to $700,000 into the project and not have anyone sign up. He was also concerned about other projects being paid from the electrical fund.
“We’re essentially borrowing money against our electric,” he said, adding that officials had a plan that he could have gotten behind, but it had shifted so he can’t support it.
Mayor Sam Budreau said he sees the two neighborhoods that will be connected as beta neighborhoods, and they petitioned the city to take the service to those areas, saying neighbors wanted it. Commissioner Jacob LaRue said the petitions were good.
Cantrell said the city’s rate proposals and amortization were based on a model of 60 to 65 percent sign up rate. The previous intended number of homes would have been 316.
Fairchild said a community working to have this technology is noteworthy.
“Part of being prudent is to develop as much as we can when we project behavior,” he said.
Cantrell said the additional funding for the project will come from the city’s fiber fund. He said the city had three bidders, but the bids are time-sensitive and could expire if a decision took too long.
In other business, the commission approved the sale of utility system revenue bonds to finance electrical generator repairs and to refinance existing debt. Fairchild abstained from the vote because his bank has purchased the bonds.
Fairchild also cast the only dissenting vote against an exchange program with the state for federal funds.
In his report, Cantrell discussed issues between the city and Neosho County 911 and dispatching system.
He said over the past 1 ½ to 2 years the city has replaced and updated equipment to provide backup if needed, which could also be a primary system. He said the county has made improvements over the city’s concerns, and dialogue is open.
Cantrell said the city has a chance to replace the use of an antenna at the Memorial Building with a 50-foot pole at the former National Guard armory, which is now Fire Station No. 2. The southern antenna would cost $8,000, compared to $130,000 to $140,000 to replace the antenna at the Memorial Building.
Cantrell said he has talked to Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center and he does not see city dispatching taking over for EMS.
Cantrell also said the city makes 80 to 85 percent of the 911 calls and pays $14,000 a month to the county for dispatching.
In their consent agenda, commissioners approved the annual Senior Lane at Chanute High School and heard from 2020 Class President Jay Brown. They also approved the Artist Alley Festival for Sept. 28.
They approved a cereal malt beverage license for Colborn’s Kitchen, 5 E. Main. They also approved resolutions to declare properties at 1302 S. Central, owned by Lisa DeNoon; 1207 W. Main, owned by Judith Steffen; 305 S. Rutter, owned by Carl and Carolyn Pruitt; 302 S. Evergreen, owned by AC Vision V LLC; and 1111 and 1115 S. Forest, owned by Stephen and Alicia Fickel, in violation of city code.