Calais Council Approves Fiber Internet Utility

By Kaileigh Deacon

 

On Thursday, October 26th, the Calais City Council held a public hearing on the proposed bond in the amount of $1.6 million to fund the downeast fiber utility project. The utility, which is the first of its kind in the state, is a joint project between the municipalities of Baileyville and Calais to bring significantly faster internet at a competitive cost to the area. Baileyville approved their bond for the project in September at a town meeting. 

The public hearing allowed for those in attendance to ask questions of Julie Jordan of the Downeast Economic Development Corporation. While the project would require an investment to get it up and started, once running the fiber utility will be a self-sustaining utility. Jordan told those in attendance that the conservative models show that the utility will have achieved debt payoff in five years, based on 30 percent of the city adopting fiber from a provider of their choice.

The city itself will not be providing the fiber but it will be leasing the lines to existing providers, enabling customers to choose what package they want and providing a competitive marketplace. 

Now that it has received municipal approval, the project will begin developing immediately. The existing dark fiber network in the town, which runs down Washington Street and other areas, will be branched outward, meaning some residents will have rapid access to the new internet option. The project will take two years to complete fully, meaning 97 percent of residents in Calais will have access to it by that point. Revenue for the city will begin as soon as the first residents sign on.

“I think, for Calais’ sake, this has been the first step I’ve seen in I don’t know how many years of proactiveness in getting something started that should carry us in the future,” said Mayor Billy Howard. 

In a unanimous decision, the council agreed to adopt the general obligation bond ordinance in the amount of $1.6 million to go forward with the broadband project. 

The council also agreed to allow the Lioness club to hold their annual Christmas Parade in December and gave City Manager Jim Porter the okay to work on filling the full time Paramedic Position on the Calais Fire EMS. 

Jim Porter also informed the council that the letters in support of Calais Hospital receiving money owed to them by various organizations have been sent out. The letters went to government officials as well as the organizations that owe the hospital money. Porter said that he received the response from Senator Collins’ office that they would work on the problem. Calais Regional Hospital also responded that they had been making progress. 

The council also talked about the future of the International Festival. It was suggested that one way to get people more involved was to reach out to the various organizations and work on getting them involved. The goal would be to get one member from each of the groups in Calais; like the Lioness club, the Lions, the Rotary, etc, to go to the festival committee. Councilor Artie Mingo also suggested that they consider adding new events to the roster to get more people interested. 

During roundtable discussion, Mike Sherrard brought up the revolving loan board. He requested that there be a meeting scheduled to look at some of the loans in existence to see what could be done on them and to discuss how the board should operate moving forward. Crystal Gallina informed the council that some of the loans were in the process of being sent to collections. Sherrard also clarified that he is unequivocally against raising taxes.  

Marianne Moore informed the council that the Chamber of Commerce would be holding their annual awards night on November 9th and invited them to attend if they were able to after their next meeting. 

The city council will not meet again until after the November 7th elections, making their next meeting on November 9th.