China Broadband Committee members to ask for TIF funding

by Mary Grow

China Broadband Committee (CBC) members voted unanimously at their June 10 meeting to ask for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds to contract with Mission Broadband, the Bangor-based consulting firm that has worked with them for months, now that China voters have approved the updated TIF plan.

The revised TIF document China voters approved at the June 8 town business meeting includes promoting broadband as a permissible use of TIF funds.

CBC members’ request goes through two steps. First, they present it to the TIF Committee, scheduled to meet Monday evening, June 14.

Assuming approval there, they ask China selectmen, meeting Monday evening, June 21, to disburse the funds.

The proposed contract requests $10,000 for Mission Broadband, in return for the company’s help in negotiations with “vendor(s) to locate or enhance their broadband business in the Town of China.” There is an option for extra duties if town officials agree, for extra money; and the town will be billed for “significant miscellaneous expenses,” if there are any.

Mission Broadband Vice-President John Dougherty and Network Engineer Mark Van Loan have worked with CBC members and Mark Ouellette, President of Machias-based Axiom Technologies, as they develop plans for Axiom to become China’s internet provider.

Their proposal is to have the town own the internet infrastructure, built with money obtained through a bond, and Axiom (or, later, another company, should town officials find Axiom unsatisfactory) operate it. Having the town issue a bond in November requires selectmen to put the question on a Nov. 2 local ballot and voters to approve it.

The anticipated construction cost for the new network determines the amount to be borrowed. The town has applied for a state planning grant to help establish the cost; CBC members expect to hear by the end of June if the application is successful.

Van Loan and Ouellette have worked together to develop a model that makes the plan financially workable at a reasonable fee for users. Their model does not include additional federal or state grants, possibilities committee members discussed June 10.

They also discussed ways to inform town officials and residents about the proposal. They had started with a brief survey at the polls June 8.

The small sample of replies showed dissatisfaction with current broadband service and support for an alternative. It also showed some residents unaware that there was an alternative in the works.

At the next committee meeting, scheduled for 4:30 p.m., Thursday, June 17, members intend to work on an informational handout and to continue discussion of ways to distribute it.


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