By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Village of Manchester held one of two monthly meetings on June 18 for council members to continue the discussion on broadband in Manchester, the agenda included agenda items specifically for input from the public and council on the subject.
There has been discussion for years about bringing broadband/high speed internet to the area, with no feasible financial solution found yet. Larger providers such as AT&T and Comcast service the village, but more rural areas in the township do not have the same opportunity.
This isn’t a problem specific to Manchester, broadband/high speed internet and access to it have been a growing discussion in rural areas more and more every year. Nearby Lyndon and Sharon Townships took steps to create their own infrastructure.
The situation for Manchester is complicated by the overlapping governments of the village and township, so, whatever decisions are made effect both entities and their residents.
February 23, Manchester township put out bids for a feasibility study to bring broadband/highspeed internet to the township. March 13, the township board voted to contract with Communications Constructions Group (CCG) to perform the feasibility study.
CCG handles all phases of fiber and coaxial construction and was the same company that Sharon Township used for their study.
The cost of the study was $19,500 and was planned to be finished near the end of summer. At the joint township and village meeting on June 13 township trustee Lisa Moutinho notified both entities that results will now likely be back in early Fall.
At that June 13 meeting, the two sides were unable to see eye to eye on the direction forward.
Village council expressed concern over a tax hike for services the village residents don’t need. The majority of village council members and residents have made it clear they do not intend to pay for services they would not benefit from.
Township trustees wanted to make it clear that the feasibility study is strictly informational with no commitments or plans for anything. The township wanted to use the study to gain a better perspective for what is best for the township and stated that it has always been their intention to try and find a way to exclude village residents with broadband/high speed from having to pay these taxes.
Legislation has been in the works to provide exactly such an exemption; however, it has been stalled in house committee with representative Gretchen Driskell (2013 – 2016) and still remains stalled with representative Donna Lasinski notifying council this year that such legislation wouldn’t be passing.
Village council members responded saying that if the township decided to push ahead to a vote after the feasibility study comes back, village residents could, potentially, end up paying a millage for the duration of the contract to fund the installation of broadband/highspeed internet they don’t want.
Of the seven members of the public who spoke out, none were for broadband/high speed internet.
During the board discussion, several council members voiced their frustration over the township not coming to them about the topic. Council member Dana Andrews said that he was against raising taxes and was concerned that the township was pushing towards the potential forcing of taxes on things for which the village already pays.
Discussion closed with council member Cynthia Dresch notifying council she would be attending the next township broadband subcommittee meeting and Vailliencourt saying she would attend the next township meeting to update them on the village discussions.