Economic & Community Development Committee Discusses Dark Fiber

By Amy Jeanroy

The Economic & Community Development Committee had two items on the agenda. The first was dark fiber in Calais. There was a speaker from Pioneer Broadband to share what is happening in Calais right now. 

Don Flewelling from Pioneer Broadband out of Houlton Maine told the committee that privately as a company, the company is adding DSL service to the Fairpoint Central office in Calais that will bring more competition to town. 

“We see DSL as a stepping stone to fiber.The wireless product that we normally sell goes to people who can’t get any other product. We are hoping to get some customers who don’t need to be on wireless off the system so that it improves for those who are out where that is the only thing they can get.” 

Flewelling said that their service is a little different in that they offer whatever a customer’s line can handle, unlike other businesses that charge different fees based on how fast of service they want.

The committee members asked questions about what their plans were for Calais and Flewelling said that they hoped to grow organically. As customers ask for service, we will chart a plan and see if we can use the Maine Fiber Co. line to get to them.

Committee member Artie Mingo, asked about the availability of fiber in Calais. 

“As a committee, we are interested in what you can offer us for the future. What can you do for us to improve our infrastructure to be able to sell ourselves to the rest of the world? We will be asked these questions by companies that are looking to move into our business park.”

Flewellyn said that if a company was interested, he was confident that Fairpoint could have fiber installed in a matter of weeks.”

Mingo asked if there were questions that the committee could ask businesses now to see if they were interested in using fiber, and Flewellyn recommended a survey inquiring about what their experience has been and if they feel that they would benefit from having fiber to their business. 

Next on the agenda was the TIF district. TIF, or tax increment financing (TIF) has to have a designated area, and the committee is considering the boundaries for the TIF. Discussion was made about moving the boundaries and what buildings make the most sense to include. City Manager Jim Porter said:

“I think we all can agree that we want to do some kind of TIF. Whether the business uses it or not, we want to have one.” 

The committee learned of some parameters for a TIF, so they could decide on the location. These parameters include:

*25% of the area needs to be blighted

*A TIF district can not be more than 2% acreage of our total community. Calais has about 25,000 acres, so a TIF district can not be more than roughly 500 acres. 

*Not more than 5% of the town can be in a TIF district. 

*There is a percentage limit to how much overall value can be in the TIF district. Calais has about a $9,000,000 for this limit.

 

The Committee will meet to discuss the TIF further at the next Economic & Community Development Committee meeting on Thursday, January 28th at 5:00 p.m.