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Crawford considers options for SB 05-152

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The Crawford Town Council was considering calling a special meeting last week following a presentation by Delta-Montrose Electric Association and Delta County Economic Development representatives regarding bringing high-speed broadband Internet fiber optics to the town.

For the town to support the effort, voters must approve a referendum asking for the town to opt out of Senate Bill 05-152. The next general election is in November.

SB 05-152 provides language for competition in utility and entertainment services and states that before a government can engage in providing telecommunications service, it must hold an election asking voters to opt out of the bill. The town is not considering going into the telecommunications business.

DMEA representative Mark Kurtz came before the town board at the Aug. 19 town work session to ask the town to consider opting out of SB 05-152. He also requested a letter of support to allow DMEA to install middle-mile high-speed broadband fiber optics from an existing substation to a carrier-neutral location. Once the lines are in place, Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, which could include DMEA, can provide broadband service to the community.

DMEA is partnering with DCED and Region 10, a non-profit organization that provides public programs in support of 18 communities and six counties in Western Colorado, including Delta County, on a $5.2 million grant recently awarded to Region 10 by the Department of Local Affairs for broadband development. "It's an extremely large investment," said Kurtz, and DMEA wants to know that it's a good one and that communities support its efforts.

Mayor Susie Steckel said the town recognizes the value in bringing broadband service to the rural community. "There are a lot of people who want to come here, but because we don't have broadband, they don't," said Steckel.

When asked about the cost to the town, DCED director Trish Thibodo said estimates for municipalities remains unknown due to numerous variables.

An in-kind donation of infrastructure by DMEA, valued at millions of dollars, will save everyone money, said Kurtz.

Trustees are unanimously in favor of the efforts, but because the presentation was given at a work session, they were unable to vote. Council members present were in favor of the referendum, and a letter of support to DMEA.

The deadline for municipalities to pass ballot language and for the county clerk and towns to sign intergovernmental agreements for the Nov. 3 election was Aug. 25. The deadline for the county clerk to file with the Secretary of State is Sept. 4. The next regularly-scheduled town meeting is Sept. 2.

If deadlines aren't met, the ballot referendum could also be placed on the ballot for the town election scheduled for April, 2016, noted Steckel.

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