Petersham seeks $880K share from state

  • Petersham Town Office Athol Daily News/Andy Castillo

  • Petersham, Massachusetts Athol Daily News/Andy Castillo

Staff Writer
Friday, February 09, 2018

PETERSHAM — In a move culminating years of effort by community leaders, the Selectboard has asked the state for its $880,000 share of funding allotted through the Executive Office of Housing and Community Development to build a projected $2,630,000 high-speed internet network.

“The town of Petersham through its Broadband MLP Board will utilize its share of state funding exclusively for aspects of the project that we will own outright from day one," according the grant application, submitted by Chip Bull, chairman of the town’s municipal light plant board, and signed by the Selectboard this week.

This is one of the final steps in securing funding for the project.

Once the request is approved, and it should be according to state broadband officials, remaining costs will be paid for through money that was approved by constituents "at the largest gathering on record at a special town meeting” in December 2016, when “a vote was taken by the town (290 to seven) to fund Petersham’s Broadband Network: $300,000 from Stabilization Fund and $260,000 from short-term borrowing,” the application says.

The remaining $1,750,000 will be contributed by Matrix Design Group, Inc., which is under contract as of November 2017 to design, build, and operate the network "until such time that the town of Petersham exercises its contractual buyout option under the terms of this capital lease,” the application says.

Based on that finalized contract, which is included as a part of the application, Matrix Design Group will first meet permitting requirements, then design optimal routes for fiber wires to be installed, and finally build out the network. Previously, operating under a Memorandum of Agreement signed in February 2017, Matrix Design Group subscribed almost 360 customers — accumulating $89,500 through those subscriptions, which is being held by the Town Treasurer in an escrow account — completed a pole data survey, created a map, built a network equipment room, made preliminary network designs, acquired required utility company surety bonds.

Last month, officials submitted 26 pole attachment applications, 13 for Verizon, 13 for National Grid, “along with town-appropriated funding checks in the amount of $138,395.35,” the application notes.

The town’s request will be reviewed by Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development “for completeness and assuming that it is complete I’m then directed to issue it to my reviewers. Ultimately the decision resides with Secretary Ash and Deputy Secretary Kirk,” said Bill Ennen of the state housing and economic development office in an email.

Assuming everything is approved, turning locally, the town’s Broadband MLP will issue a few requests for proposals seeking contractors to help with the build-out. Construction will start soon after and, beginning in July 2018, subscribers will begin coming online. When all is said and done by this December 2018 — the second anniversary of that 2016 town meeting — 70 to 90 percent of town residents should be served by high speed internet, video, and voice services.

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