China Broadband Committee (CBC) members spent their July 15 meeting planning more ways to publicize their progress as they seek expanded and improved broadband service for town residents.
The results include two more meetings: the committee will meet virtually at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 22, primarily to work on a video presentation that would give China residents a quick overview of the project; and a second public meeting is scheduled.
The public meeting is called “Brownies and Broadband” – there might be more varied refreshments, but committee members liked the alliterative title – and is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 29, at China Middle School.
Committee members planned other opportunities for people to learn about their work.
CBC Chairman Robert O’Connor is to present a report on the 2021 loon count at the China Lake Association’s annual meeting, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, July 31. He will include a broadband update.
Someone representing CBC will offer information at the ballfields during the Saturday afternoon, Aug. 7, part of China Community Days. Neil Farrington, a committee member and head of the Saturday afternoon part of the annual celebration, says he expects up to a dozen other organizations will be represented.
After the July 15 meeting, committee member Tod Detre completed the new CBC website, htpps://chinabroadband.net. By July 16 it already contained additional information about the July 15 meeting. The town website, www.china.govoffice.com, has a link to the broadband website under the Broadband Committee (which is under Officials, Boards & Committees).
Having gained a July 14 recommendation from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee for $10,000 in TIF funds for planning, CBC members O’Connor and Jamie Pitney asked for the appropriation at the July 19 China selectmen’s meeting, where another complication cropped up.
The money is be used to have Hawkeye Fiber Optics (also called Hawkeye Connections), of Poland, Maine, survey existing broadband infrastructure in town to help determine the cost of expanded service.
Committee members have a draft contract ready that authorizes payment of the $10,000 when the work is finished and a report submitted. However, Town Manager Becky Hapgood, who was not at the selectmen’s meeting, had noted the need for a second condition.
Funding for broadband is authorized in the revised TIF program (the Second Amendment) that voters approved June 8, and the state has not approved the revised program. Therefore TIF money cannot assist with broadband expansion until the appropriate official in the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) signs off.
Hapgood advised making payment conditional on DECD approval. After discussion, selectmen voted 4-1 to add the condition and to authorize Hapgood to sign the contract for the survey after board members re-review the final version.
The dissenter was Selectman Wayne Chadwick. Chadwick pointed out that the CBC has already received $10,000 (to pay consultants Mission Broadband) and was now asking for another $10,000, before selectmen had even decided whether to ask voters to approve the project.
Pitney explained that the survey was a useful step toward asking selectmen to ask voters to approve a construction bond issue on Nov. 2, because it will provide more accurate cost estimates than the committee has now.
When O’Connor offered selectmen posters advertising the July 29 Brownies and Broadband program, Selectboard Chairman Ronald Breton reminded him that CBC members needed to offer at least three kinds of brownies: regular ones with nuts, and, to allow for possible allergies, some without nuts and some without chocolate.
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