ECFiber.net Executive Committee, VTA Report, and Other Notes From the 20080421 meeting

Last night I attended the second meeting of the ECFiber Network‘s governing board, of which I am a part, representing the town of Stockbridge. As of today, 20 towns have signed the inter-local contract, joining ECFiber, with three towns stating interest, and two apparently not displaying interest.

Highlights of the meeting included election of the Executive Committee, discussion with three towns who wanted to be members but did not yet have signed ILCs because of outstanding legal concerns regarding the contracts, a status report on dealings with the VTA, a statement by a selectman from the town of Pomfret, and an announcement by Tim Nulty an Stan Williams of ValleyFiber.net.

The Executive Committee is currently made up of individuals who have been actively involved in ECFiber since its early stages. I had contemplated running for a position on the EC, but decided against it, at this time. One concern that was raise and I still do not believe was answered was a question of the staggering of officers so as to provide continuity. As it is currently stated, the Chair and Vice Chair positions are two-year terms, and the remaining three positions are one-year terms. The way I read this, all positions will be up for re-election in 2010. Despite was was said at last night’s meeting, this is not staggered so as to provide continuity, and needs to be addressed. Chair Loredo Sola (Pomfret), Vice Chair Andy Hooper (Montpelier), Jim Masland (Thetford), Janet Zug (Tunbridge), and Steven Williams (Strafford) now make up the Executive Committee.

After elections were held, Jim Masland discussed the current state of affairs between ECFiber and the Vermont Telecomm Authority. This dialog was nearly identical to the one which was conducted on April 8, when Tim Nulty rebutted some of the VTA’s concerns. After repeating that ECFiber never sought more than a token amount of financing from the VTA, despite reports by the Valley News that we had been turned down for our request for $8M, I strongly urged Stan and Tim to divulge correspondence with the VTA so that their position seems less like sour grapes.

Attorney Paul Giuliani warned the Governing Board that there will be at least one more version of the ILC which will need signing by the member towns’ governing bodies.

The Governing Board voted to have subsequent meetings on the second Tuesday of the month. Given that the amount of business for the Board is still to be determined, I moved that we meet monthly for the next three months, and then revisit our meeting schedule at that time, which was approved.

Discussion was held on the towns of Bethel, Brookfield, and Williamstown, who did not have signed ILCs, but did send representatives to the meeting. After a significant amount of debate, a motion was made and carried to extend the deadline for these towns to sign ILCs to May 8, 2008. This offer was not extended to towns who have not demonstrated significant interest in ECFiber, such as Windsor, who, according to Chair Loredo Sola, has never responded to any of his invitations to participate in the project.

Doug Tuthill, selectman from Pomfret, stood an made some waves by declaring that the April 8 meeting was out of order, and that the 20 towns who had signed the contract had moved prematurely. Oddly, his own town of Pomfret is one of said towns. However, according to Doug, they included a caveat that if their concerns are not met within three months, that Pomfret will withdraw from ECFiber prior to signing a capital lease agreement.

Finally, Tim Nulty stood and offered some good news. After negotiations with Atlantic Engineering Group, a corporation that has deployed over 60 fiber networks, including 16 for municipalities, Tim announced that AEG had agreed to build the proposed fiber network, to every home and business in the member towns, for $31M. Any overage will be absorbed by AEG, and any savings will be split by ECFiber and AEG. Apparently one of the concerns raised by the VTA (whose letter I have not yet gotten a copy of) was that ECFiber would not be able to find a firm to build the network as described. This concern has obviously been addressed.

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