Fiber optic project moving slowly due to weather

ALPENA – Allband Communication Cooperative has been doing work in Northeast Michigan installing fiber which will provide high-speed Internet access to those living in rural parts of the area. During the Alpena County Road Commission meeting Tuesday, General Manager Ron Siegel updated the board on the progress made on the project.

Siegel said the project is moving along as well as can be expected considering work has been slowed by winter weather when little can be done in the right of way of roads. He said he has been contacted by customers who now have the high speed internet and thanked him.

“It has been going well, but because it is from a stimulus grant we need to have it done by a specific date, so this seasonal weather is challenging,” Siegel said. “I love it when the people call me and say ‘thank you’ because until this project there was no way for them to get high speed Internet. You always get more complaints than thanks, so when you do get it, it feels really good.”

Last year the road commission accepted about $8,000 from Allband to go toward permitting fees. After some debate the commission decided to only charge the company $2,000 for the needed permits, but as a result kept the remainder as a type of security deposit so if there was any damage to the roads, it could be used to offset the cost of the road commission fixing it.

Siegel asked the board when Allband could expect to get the money back. The board agreed that, even though the contractors doing the work are bonded, the money would not be returned until the job in Alpena County was complete. It also told Siegel that before the money was sent back the road commission could keep a portion to cover administrative costs and inspection fees. Managing Director Larry Orcutt said he will give the board some preliminary totals on what it has cost the road commission to allow Allband to use the right-of-way.

“The costs that we incur are going to be a consideration,” Orcutt said. “The Allband project have a significant impact on the road right-of-way and I do not recommend refunding fees that help offset expenses of the permit activity oversight.”

In other business:

  • the board discussed whether a cheaper type of salt is working as well as the type normally used on icy streets. Superintendent Curt Gonyea said the new “blue” salt is about $1 a ton cheaper, but doesn’t seem to do as good of job as the “white” salt, resulting on more having to be applied. Gonyea said so far the road commission has used nearly the same amount of salt as it did last winter, even though there has been little snow and some warm spells.
  • the final budget totals for last year showed the county had an $11,190 deficit. It began with a $369,509 deficit, but during the year unexpected revenues were received, such as a $41,000 return from the 2010 audit and almost $100,000 more in spending by the townships. Finance Director Julia Patterson said there were a lot of little revenue amounts that when added up throughout the year helped to make up the large deficit the budget began with.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689.