Council digests fiber optic discussion
The surroundings were new, the chairs were squeaky, the giant screen had a mind of its own and Councilman Dan Richardson’s voting light looked like a green star of Bethlehem. But at its core, Thursday’s first-ever Glenwood Springs City Council meeting at the new City Hall was very familiar – lots of questions for city manager Mike Copp. Many of those questions pertained to the status of the city’s fiber optics system. When will it be online? What’s the holdup? Will the city become its own Internet service provider?Copp said the system “should be operational in about two weeks.”The holdup, Glenwood Springs Electric Department supervisor John Hines said, is a PVC pipe ordered from Qwest to carry lines to hook up the system. Also, the city still is still having trouble coming to terms with a local Internet service provider, or ISP, to resell its last-mile service. The city plans to use wireless infrastructure to hook up residential and business customers, then let an ISP link those customers to the Internet. The ISPs would be responsible for customer service, Internet access and possibly installing the wireless system into homes and businesses. The barriers between the ISPs and the city include the cost of parts and labor to install wireless systems – which would be at least $400 – and charges to use city infrastructure. As Copp answered the questions, he said he was angered and disappointed because the city has received positive media coverage all over the state and country, but “the place we get ripped is Glenwood Springs.” “I think we’re there. We’re going to start getting people connected,” he said. Copp also reiterated the city’s reluctance to become its own ISP and compete with already-existing businesses. He did not, however, rule out that option, saying the city “is not going to sit there” if agreements can’t be reached with local Internet service providers. “I think we’re doing everything we can,” he said, adding that the system will make money from businesses and from a possible contract with the state that could include hosting all state Internet addresses.”It would be a big plus for the city,” he said of the possible contract. “We’ve got a great product. The key is getting everybody on – or at least trying to.”Meanwhile, AT&T Broadband is poised to launch its own broadband system within the next few months. The launch could spell trouble for local Internet providers because the mammoth company might come in and offer $19.95 for broadband during the first three months, then charge $45 to $50 after that, Sopris Surfers owner Paul Huttenhower said.”We want to help. We want to be involved,” Huttenhower said. “I know we had differences in the newspaper, but we want to get past that.” He was referring to a story in the Aug. 12 edition of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent in which he said city officials spent too much on the system and raised questions about their bidding process. “We have about 80 broadband customers we could move right over to the city,” he said. He warned that AT&T could capture a large share of the local market, sending money out of the community. “We think cash that goes out of the community is bad. Cash that stays in is good,” he said. Despite the coming competition, Huttenhower said there are ways to combat a large company like AT&T with new innovations and local customer service. David Stover, of Crimson Wireless, also attended the meeting. He explained why he hadn’t yet signed any contracts to resell the city’s system. “We want to work with the city, but so far it hasn’t been to our advantage to do so,” he said. A Wednesday meeting is scheduled between Copp and some of the local ISPs to again try and hammer out a deal. Councilman Rick Davis also asked Copp whether there was an operations and maintenance contract in place. The winner of the lucrative contract would have overseen the general operation of the system, seen to any necessary repairs, and done any other necessary repairs. “We jumped the gun on that,” Copp said. The contract was to be put out to a public bid earlier this year, but was pulled by the city. Now, according to an official from Brunetti DEC, the city’s consultant on the project, Brunetti is taking care of the operations and maintenance on a month-to-month basis without a contract. During a work session earlier in the evening, City Council members looked at two options for post-Coal Seam Fire debris flow basins at Glenwood Meadows.The new designs have a much larger capacity than the old because of the likelihood of more debris rolling down the north face of Red Mountain and onto the coming development. “We had planned on phasing these as development happened,” Meadows attorney Tom Hartert said. “But now we’re saying, `Let’s go out and get them built.'”Construction on the basins is expected to begin next spring. A Meadows engineer said the basins will be designed to catch debris from a 24-hour, 100-year storm. Larger basins also come at a larger price. The basins could cost as much as $1.5 million. Option “A” would be built just below the base of the hill, while “B” would be constructed as far up as possible. Both options, the engineer said, would be sufficient for a calamitous storm. Option “B” was the more expensive of the two. “We looked at how far up the hill we could push it,” the engineer said, noting that the further up it goes, the more it will cost. City officials also discussed the possibility of putting a driving range, golf course or trails below the basins. Copp said the three steps that have to happen before any basin is built are: city engineer Larry Thompson has to review both options, one of the options must be decided upon, and the city has to find a way to finance the work. The investment will be paid back by Meadows developers.Council also discussed updating a 1982 study that looked at a citywide debris flow mitigation plan. Copp said he’d look into it and get back to council.
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