Royalston BOS: Let’s get moving on broadband

  • Broadband Committee Chair Andy West (left) and Vice Chair John Hardie discuss ongoing efforts to bring a wireless broadband network to homes and businesses during Tuesday’s meeting of the Royalston Selectboard. Greg Vine

  • Broadband Committee Vice Chair John Hardie (foreground) makes a point while discussing the effort to bring broadband internet service to Royalston homes and businesses during Tuesday’s meeting of the town’s Selectboard. Committee Chair Andy West is seated next to Hardie. Facing Hardie and West are Selectboard members Roland Hamel, Chair Christine Long, and Deb D’Amico. —Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 7/12/2019 9:50:18 PM
Modified: 7/12/2019 9:50:05 PM

ROYALSTON – Members of the selectboard Tuesday night expressed frustration over the slow pace of selecting a vendor to begin construction of the wireless network, which will bring broadband internet service to the town. Broadband Committee Chair Andy West told the board three vendors had submitted bids to undertake the project.

According to John Leary, owners project manager for the town, bids were submitted by: BLiNQ Networks of Markham, Ontario; Telrad North America of Erlanger, Kentucky; and Tilson Technology Management, with offices in Manchester, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine. Leary is the information technology manager for Westfield Gas & Electric, the company hired by the town as project consultant in June 2018.

Without providing additional details, West told the board that one of the bidders was dropped from consideration, while the other two have been asked to provide additional details regarding their bids.

“One bid was incomplete for financial reasons,” said West, “and the other was incomplete for technical reasons. So, we pushed it back to them. We said, ‘Hey, go do this – here’s what we’re looking for. We need this and this and this and this. One vendor then lost most of its sales team; radio silence for six or eight weeks.”

He then explained that it took several weeks for the second remaining vendor to fully understand what it was the town was looking for.

“That’s the one (vendor) we’re trying to get the most information out of,” Leary told the board. “The one that lost its sales force, they’re hardly returning calls at this point.”

Broadband Committee Vice Chair John Hardie reminded the board that the vendors under consideration had initially submitted their bids last August.

“Both of them have had to upgrade their financial, and upgrade their technical information because things have changed since then,” said Hardie. “But we have to give both bidders an opportunity to complete the process or we risk being sued.”

Selectboard Chair Christine Long expressed additional frustration over the slow pace of the Broadband Committee in weighing the information it has been given thus far.

Two subcommittees were established, one to assess the technical information and another to examine financial aspects of the bids. Each subcommittee is charged with making a recommendation on who to hire based on the information received. However, meetings of the full committee, scheduled to discuss likely recommendations, have repeatedly been canceled over the past several months.

Long seemed to imply that some amount of friction between the two subcommittees is partly to blame for delaying progress.

“There is no reason in my mind,” she said, “why the committee cannot meet sometime in the near future as long as you don’t discuss the specifics of those two vendors.”

Such discussions are prohibited by statute.

“There’s no reason people can’t sit down like adults and discuss these things,” she said.

Long asked Leary if any of the several dozen similar projects overseen by WG&E has taken so long to progress, the project manager answered in the negative.

“If you had told me when we took on this project that, as of this date, we would only be where we are at this moment, I would have been flabbergasted,” Leary responded.

The selectboard did thank West, Hardie, and others involved in the effort to bring broadband to Royalston for the amount of time they have invested. The board, however, also urged the Broadband Committee to meet as soon as possible in order to expedite the selection of vendor.

“People in this town have been waiting a long time for this,” said Long. “It would be really unfair to ask them to wait much longer.”


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