Final agreement close for Royalston broadband

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/18/2020 5:45:57 PM
Modified: 11/18/2020 5:45:49 PM

ROYALSTON — The Broadband Committee Monday night voted to send a pair of contracts necessary to move forward on the town’s wireless broadband system to Town Counsel for what is hoped to be a final review.

Committee member Jon Hardie explained, “We’ve been working on two major contracts. We’re going back to Town Counsel having agreed on several changes. In the case of the master service agreement, the changes are very few. (Project integrator) T3 accepted 98 percent of the changes that had earlier been proposed by Town Counsel that objectively protected Royalston in this agreement with T3.”

Hardie said the master service agreement covers work that will be done “providing services between here and the end of the commissioning, and the statement of work is the work that will be done by all the players. The statement of work will be multilayered because we’re now going to be going out to bid for all of the elements involved in the tower construction.”

Those elements, Hardie told the committee, include permitting, site permitting, construction/erection and commissioning.

“T3,” he continued, “is doing all of the design, engineering, oversight, and we’re going out to bid for the contact for an expedited building of the towers.”

Hardie explained that Massachusetts does not allow municipalities to agree to design/build contracts, which would be allowed for a private project. That means that T3, while allowed to design the network, is prohibited from constructing it.

Committee Chair Andy West said, “Those work products (Hardie) mentioned are complete from our perspective and are ready to go back to Town Counsel. So, we’ve agreed to the terms that are in the documents and are in the process of sending those off to Town Counsel.”

Hardie said that all of the final adjustments to the contracts were agreed to just a few days before Monday’s meeting.

“This is pivotal,” he emphasized. “This is a pivotal moment in 10 years, as we’re moving from organizing to executing, to getting these two contracts down. They will go to Town Counsel, they will come back to (project manager) WG&E (Westfield Gas & Electric), they will come back to the Broadband Committee. The Broadband Committee will then send those approved documents to the Selectboard. The Selectboard will approve them, and then we will say to WG&E, ‘We would like to execute those two contracts; one with BLiNQ and one with T3.”

BLiNQ is the vendor chosen by the committee to operate the town’s broadband network once construction has been completed.

“One of the major actions we had to take for these two contracts we’re talking about tonight,” West said, “was to peel out the construction part. These companies are used to — with private organizations — they’re used to designing and building at the same time. So, their boilerplate contract has both in it.

“We peeled out the construction stuff and (T3) has been very helpful to make sure we had we really need in it. So, it was good work by all.”

Hardie followed with high praise for the two major vendors coordinating this project.

“It’s become very apparent over the last couple of years that T3 and BLiNQ are really good people, and we’ve seen the energy in the negotiations and the agreements that have emerged in which there’s a very high amount of sensitivity to our municipal relationship to the community. They’re wanting to be helpful in making sure that this town-owned network is sustainable and works well. Underneath all of this legal stuff is a very high level of cooperation and collaboration. I see it as a very exciting working relationship.”

The approximate cost of the town’s broadband network is $1.4 million. Royalston voters approved spending $275,000, and $1.125 million is coming from the state. It’s expected that some 350 homes will tie into the system in its first year of operation.

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