By Lynne Beauchamp, firstname.lastname@example.org
On August 8, Lyndon Township voters approved a bond proposal to fund construction of a community owned, township wide fiber optic broadband network. The vote passed 622-321 with a voter turnout of 43%, according to Washtenaw County Unofficial Election Results.
For nearly four years, Lyndon Township has been working with Michigan Broadband Cooperative (MBCOOP), a grassroots initiative to advance broadband in rural Michigan, on a way to provide broadband service to its residents when the “big companies” refused to.
The $7 million project will be funded by a bond backed by a 20-year millage, with an average annual millage rate to retire the bonds estimated at 2.91 mills. The average combined cost of the millage for infrastructure and monthly fee for basic broadband service will be between $57-67/month. The service will be available to every resident in the township.*
“The fun is just beginning,” said MBCOOP member and Lyndon Township resident, Ben Fineman, to the township board on August 10 during a regular township board meeting. Going by the results of the feasibility study Lyndon Township had conducted earlier, the study suggested the project should be completed in just over a year once it begins.
“The clock is ticking” added Fineman.
He suggested the immediate action needed to get the project underway should start with the formation of an implementation committee (a group of individuals appointed by the board) to conduct research and make recommendations to the board for contracting engineering and construction. Also needed is a project manager to oversee the project, to protect the township, all of which have been included in the cost set forth by the bond voters approved.
“We need to think about how we are going to deal with last minute decisions and formulate a plan,” said Lyndon Township Supervisor Marc Keezer. “If we wait [to make decisions] for a board meeting each month, we will get behind on the project…we need to, as a board, get direction on this.”
Keezer added that Lyndon Township is the first community of its kind to fund a project like this, where other communities that have built a broadband infrastructure have had city planners, or the like, to go forth.
“We don’t have a City Planner” said Keezer.
Other concerns of the board in starting the construction of the broadband infrastructure were accessing utility easements, obtaining an attorney specializing in broadband communications and in establishing a timeline. With these concerns, the board has agreed to set up a workshop, date to be determined and post on the township’s website.
According to Township Treasurer, Mary Jane Maze, Lyndon Township residents can expect to see the broadband millage on the winter 2017 tax bill.
*Information provided by Michigan Broadband Cooperative