Selectboard Meeting Notes – DV Fiber Presentation

selectboard Sept 6 2022

The Brattleboro Selectboard got into a rather detailed discussion of DV Fiber’s plans to provide high speed internet throughout southeastern Vermont. It stated out as a simple request for some closet space, but expanded into a description of the network and coming plans for service.

The board also approved a grant application for housing assistance and accepted a grant for bike paths.

Comments | 6

  • Preliminaries

    They get started late. No Daniel Quipp. Time Wessel discussion re: minutes.

    Chair Ian Goodnow – I have no remarks.

    Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland – I have no comments.

    Tim – this meeting has been properly warned.

    Moreland – yes it has.

    Public Participation

    no public comments

  • Consent agenda

    Ian asks Moreland to explain them… slowing this process once again.

    A. Vermont Department of Libraries $571.35 Courier Grant – Authorize Application

    B. VLCT Annual Business Meeting – Appoint Delegate

    so consented

    (the zoom video and audio seem out of sync tonight. Mouths move when they aren’t talking, and vice versa.)

    Ian – is the administrative report part of the formal record?

    Moreland – yes, part of the materials made available to the public.

  • VTrans Bike and Pedestrian Grant – Accept and Appropriate

    Sue Fillion – I’m here toast for you to accept the grant. This is to construct bike lanes on a portion of Western Ave from Green St to High Street. New crosswalks at Allerton and Speno Court. Allerton will get flashing beacons. Travel lanes will be reduced to 11 feet and the parking on each side of the road will alternate , not too jarring. It is the preferred alternative from the biking scoping study. The board endorsed this. Total cost is about $36k, so the state is paying for half. RTM had $12k put in toward the project. It will be a little bit higher due to the flashing beacons. We hoped it could be done this fall, but it will be the spring of 2023. State agencies are busy, so we estimate 30 days to complete the contract, then Vtrans reviews construction designs, then our own procurement. No winter wear on the lines that get striped. This is mostly a line striping project.

    Ian – thanks.

    Elizabeth McLaughlin – the board chose to apply and now accept this money and it is the proper way to do things and a plan the whole town is in favor of.

    Tim – I support the project.

    Ian – I echo Liz’s points. Sorry we didn’t get it going in time for fall. Now that it is $34k, I’m glad we waited for the matching grant, and considering the wear and tear of the winter, we’ll get a good result in the spring.

    $18k approved 4-0

  • Windham and Windsor Housing Trust Application for a Scattered Site Grant – Public Hearing and Authorize Application

    Ian – we need to enter a public hearing. (they do)

    Patrick – we’re asked to hold a public hearing and consider a grant for a scattered site grant for $525k for WWHT for home repair and advocacy and homebuyer assistance. The Town has served as the applicant for this grant program since 2013. They have partnered with others, too, but they are focusing locally again now. The funds aren’t in competition. The specifics about services and how much to request have been determined. Our role is to be the municipal applicant. A couple of things – there are home repair loans, housing counseling, first time home assistance. The grant will be matched by other resources, and those funds will be used in two counties. Look at what Brattleboro gets… our population is 12% but we have up to 23% use of the program. We have some reps from WWHT…

    Bruce Whitney
    Tara Brown

    Bruce – thanks to the Town of Brattleboro for the work you’ve done with us. Thanks to patrick for his help over the years. As reviewed the fund provides critical home repairs to folks int he two counties. Our offices are in Brattleboro. Our counseling program helps people seeking to buy homes. Thanks again.

    Tara – we anticipate in 370 households served. In addition to funding, we provide construction oversight, help with contracts, specs, contractors. It can be overwhelming. It helps them. We are currently working with two Brattleboro homeowners for additional needs. Folks come back as they need new repairs.

    Liz – totally in favor of this program. My daughter worked with you. Great help for existing housing stock. Best way to get people into proper housing.

    Tim – home loans can apply to duplexes? As long as they are within income guidelines?

    Tara – we can do that. One to four units.

    Jessica Gelter – I benefitted from counseling and home buying workshops. Great service and experience.

    Ian – I don’t go a day without talking about housing in Brattleboro. I hope your outreach is string and the programs are promoted to people and they can find you. I encourage getting the word out.

    Bruce –

    approved (applying for grant) 4-0

  • Access Agreements Town of Brattleboro and DVFiber

    Moreland – so, this evening the board is asked to authorized two point of presence access points – central fire station and pleasant valley road – for DV Fiber. So, these access agreements will allow them to situate network equipment where we own the property and already have equipment. They will put server-like things in the server room at CFS and Pleasant Valley. They are secure and have back up power. They are being installed all over southern VT, where network engineers think they will be best placed. The history of this started in 2018 and some folks asked for municipal broadband. Staff investigated, looked at other communities. In examining them, Brattleboro wasn’t in a place to go it alone. Too expensive, and cost prohibitive. Looked at partnering with existing providers. Not what we wanted. While we did this, other communities were forming a communications union district. Windham Regional did a feasibility study. They said it could work. Formed the Deerfield Vallery CUD and Brattleboro joined it. It’s grown to 24 towns and the operating business is now called DV Fiber. Not the only CUD in VT. There are 9 of them. DV Fiber is s step ahead of them. Great support from the state. Some large grants – $4.1 million for engineering planning and 21.9 million to begin phase 1 construction. The most unserved folks go first. Brattleboro is in phase 2. There will be grants to do phase 1, but phase 2 will mean bonds and debt, so we want to keep costs down. Each member community that provides space without asking for income, there is a intelligent design in the CUDs. The financial resources of member municipalities are firewall against the success of failure of the CUD – No tax dollars. It will never be a taxpayer expense. One thing that is asked is that space is made available for points of presence. Two locations in Brattleboro – at the fire station and in an equipment room near the water treatment plant. We want to give them space and power, to help keep costs down and help rural customers. Steven John, elected chair of DV Fiber is here.

    Steve – a big summary statement – DV Fiber – the people’s internet, owned by the people in southern VT and governed locally. While many see Brattleboro as very well served, I have a list of 118 that are underserved. They won’t be the first to be connected, but probably part of a fiber service area near Dummerston, Guilford – we don’t recognize the town borders – it’s a like tree branches and go follow the rights of way of the power company. We have to do permits and surveys. We purchased fiber – 300 miles – we have them stashed away. Start hanging fiber in October. I meet every other week with GMP and we ensure the make ready process happens to prepare the poles for the fiber. I’m fascinated by this stuff. Telephone power is at the top, but they need to be spaced , and there has to be room for another provider. Open to your questions. It is a massive project. We can connect everyone in the CUD when done. WE have to have grant capital up front. Other ISPs aren’t going to these places. It’s a window of opportunity for us to step up early, and it will take a while – 5-8 years. 2/3 of this could be paid with federal grants.

    Tim – I remember we went through soul searching because lots of us wanted us in the ISP business. Glad we didn’t do it at the time. There was the question of the underserved. Glad this wise decision of the board back then made this happen. It’s not a heavy lift, but an example of Brattleboro thinking of the wider communities.

    Steve – the board was impressed. The plan will be revised as business and competition affects it. The 118 people are 24 different roads. The network needs to be resilient. There will be three rings, north, central and south. We won’t spend on one outside service – bandwidth – we’ll have three providers, the big players. I’m learning a lot.

    Tim – two easy questions. I noticed some communities aren’t mentioned – an reason why Vernon or Putney…

    Steve – they are all members. We go all the way up to Weston and Londonderry. The board never meets in person. We don’t have members from Athens or Rockingham because they have fiber from Vtel. The 24 town makes it financially viable, and we need customers. Starting with the least served, and then what’s convenient to connect.

    Tim – phase 3 – is that when someday it might be in competition with commercial…?

    Steve – yes – my ideal is to never borrow any money. We can keep rtes down and services high. The phases – we now have more nuanced details – we have 7 stages now. The first grant goes 18 months and connects 4000 over 400 miles in the CUD.

    Liz – as soon as it is constructed – they become customers and pay fees, and money comes in?

    Steve – we have a private partner who has done this in Maine – Greatworks Internet. They aren’t big, but are good. We have contracts with.. they are detailed with metrics for holding partners accountable. The key is the people own all the fiber, equipment… so that if something went wrong with the private partner, they don’t own anything – we get another partner. Good investment strategy for the state.

    Tim – curios about that end phase – it would drive down prices for other competitors.

    Steve – it has already happened.

    ian – full support for this. My belief, especially during the pandemic we live in, fast reliable internet is a human right and we need to be providing it. My who life we’ve struggled with it. This is a small ask and I support it. One question – paragraph 5 is getting paid for electricity – it is convoluted.

    Patrick – the author of the agreement wanted to provide a variety of options – It has a couple of ways to recapture the electric expense – a couple of hundred dollars annually. There are a variety of ways to get reimbursed.

    Steve – we want to protect local taxpayers from any liability.

    Ian – if I’m on another reprover can I move over?

    Steve – yes – it reaches everybody. It will be a business decision – for us to go to places to funded by the grant, we have to justify the resources and qualify for a revenue bond. That gives greater reason to have confidence in a flexible business model. The more people we get, the lower price it could be (can’t promise, but…)… we don’t have to provide profits to investors. Operating costs don’t change much with increased service. Glad to live long enough to see it.

    Ian – despite the interest, no public here.

    approved 4-0

  • Thanks Chris

    Interesting range of stuff this month. I hope DV Fiber usurps the other ISPs around here. So sick of the escalating charges.

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