From Peter Psarouthakis, Sharon Township Supervisor
The grass roots initiative of bringing fiber to the home Broadband solution to Sharon Township has become controversial to say the least. There are groups on both sides of the issue and a lot of misinformation floating around: whether it is from someone walking up your driveway, word of mouth, social media, letters to the editor, etc.
The Sharon Township Board put this proposal on the ballot so the voters in the township could decide whether or not they want to pay to build the infrastructure to gain access to Broadband internet.
After years of research and meetings, the board decided to move forward with a feasibility study. The goal was to find out if there was a feasible solution to reach 100% of the homes-not some-ALL. After getting the results the board hosted an informational meeting with over 200 residents in attendance. Residents were asked if they would like this proposal to be put to a vote by the people. Both sides said YES. People against it wanted to be able to vote “NO” and people for it wanted to be able to vote “YES”, which is what led to the vote that will occur on May 8th.
Many FALSE comments are being made about project costs or that costs in general are not being provided to the residents. Project maintenance costs have all been laid out in the feasibility study (located on the township website). A very specific explanation was posted on social media as well. Costs to “light up the fiber” (page 17/18), annual maintenance/upkeep (pg 29), maintenance of the fiber itself (pg 30), costs to connect to the backbone for bandwidth (pg 29), daily maintenance and ISP expenses (pg 29) the cost of the team that will connect each home to the “fiber drops”, these are all included. Again, the study in full is available at sharontownship.org.
The proposal, if passed, will provide the fiber infrastructure to each home and up every household driveway. If you have heard that you will have to pay extra for the fiber to be run from the road to your house; that is FALSE.
COST: The proposal is for $4.9 million. A recent letter to the editor claimed the project will be $10 million. That is FALSE. A sign on Pleasant Lake road claims this project will be $6 million. That is also FALSE. Please read the ballot language for yourself so you can know the facts before you vote.
Another FALSE statement being circulated is claims that Air Advantage has made an actionable proposal to the township. While it is true that the township did meet with Air Advantage to discuss possible wireless options in the township, the end result of those discussions was that fiber was the best option. Not only did they say that fiber was the best option for internet- they said they would be interested in bidding to be the internet provider if the proposal passes. The president of Air Advantage also stated – at a public board meeting in January- that he supported the township pursuing fiber and acknowledged it as the best long-term solution for our township. The presentation materials from this meeting are being used on a private website as an attempt to make it look like this meeting was a formal proposal. Again, that is FALSE. This meeting was simply an attempt to leave no rock unturned as a possible solution. Air Advantages estimated costs and scope of work would have only ended up reaching some of our residents. This solution DID NOT guarantee service to ALL of our residents and was therefore deemed a non-feasible option. Again, the May 8th purposed Broadband project is to get high speed internet ran to EVERY household in Sharon Township.
There is also a misconception being put out there that the largest majority of Sharon Township residents are large land owners and that THEY are “taking the brunt of this”. This is also FALSE. Looking at all taxable property in the township it is clear that land size does not always equate to the highest taxes paid. This is due to things such as agricultural land exemptions. There are MANY homes that are rather expensive on smaller parcels of land with a much higher assessed and taxable value than many farms. Again, just because someone owns a lot of land does not mean that their land has a higher taxable value than a home in the township. YOUR TAXABLE VALUE is different than your assessed value- THIS IS VERY important when calculating your potential costs. If you have questions, please contact the town hall to obtain assistance in looking up your taxable value and helping calculate estimated costs. Town Hall #734-428-7591.
Unfortunately, there is a small group of township residents who are claiming this proposal is a direct and purposeful attack on farmers. These comments reek of similar connotations as bigotry and racism, which is extremely disturbing to hear and a deliberate attempt to cause animosity between residents. The township board in no way endorses such comments, which are completely FALSE.
To be clear, this proposal is on the ballot due to hundreds of residents coming to the township board, over the past four years, asking for an internet solution.
The ballot language is available at sharontownship.org , on Washtenaw County’s elections website, or at the Town Hall
VOTE YES or NO, just please vote based on the facts!
Sharon Township Supervisor