Kudos to Mayor Steve Shute for far-reaching plans like his proposed “Wired City.” It’s not easy being a visionary.
Under Shute’s plan, Gardner would fund a fiber cable to form a “backbone” thru Gardner, and once complete, at a cost of $3,000 each, residences and businesses would be able to hook up, pay a monthly fee to Gardner city, and then contract separately with an internet service provider.
Exact details have yet to be determined: exact cost — $1 million to $2 million; whether to fund thru bonds or electric utility reserves; what subdivisions the “backbone” would include; how much to condemn people’s right of way on private property; and how much initial cable installation and ongoing maintenance would cost.
What we see as an issue is that to our knowledge after perusing council minutes and video – we don’t believe the city council ever directed Shute to proceed with his idea. In February, council did instruct staff to research an I-35 interchange plan, which is on the planning commission’s agenda this week – but there doesn’t appear to be council direction to pursue the fiber optic endeavor.
Yet, we’ve spent at least $2,000 in air fare to fly to Idaho to research the idea, as well as associated costs, surveys and staff time. How is that “lost time” affecting productivity in other areas?
Last weekend, Shute hosted an interactive Facebook discussion regarding fiber optics with about 20 viewers.
Shute said he is open to putting the fiber optic initiative to a vote of the people. Special elections aren’t cheap. And piggy backing on a scheduled election is not much cheaper.
Until Shute’s campaign and state of the city address, we hadn’t heard a clamor for a new fiber optic utility; the community is already served by two cable companies plus satellite, and they don’t charge a $3,000 “hook up” fee.
Google fiber recently backed off laying cable, saying it wasn’t cost effective, and they declined the Gardner market. Maybe we should listen?
Technology is forever changing – and rapidly. It took a community in Idaho nearly nine years from making the initial decision to having their first residential customer.
In nine years, will fiber optic still be a viable option? Many technologies no longer require hard wiring.
While we appreciate our forward-thinking mayor, we suggest he focus more on what we elect mayors to do.
As mayor, he is Gardner’s spokesperson, makes sure staff is performing adequately, presides over council and ensures the city fulfills its duties.
Basically mayors are elected to oversee the community’s interest and to be a good financial steward of the taxpayers’ money.
Not to start a business.