County commissioners approve extra $87,857 for fiber optic project
Steamboat Springs — It’s going to cost them about $88,000 more than they originally expected, but Routt County commissioners voted July 19 to approve contributing $343,131 toward the construction of a fiber optic trunk line running 9 miles from the west to east side of Steamboat Springs.
The overall cost of the project, which is being shared among the county, city of Steamboat Springs, Yampa Valley Medical Center, Steamboat Springs School District and Yampa Valley Electric Association, has grown from an estimated $1.4 million earlier this year to $2.224 million, with the cost being defrayed in part by a $748,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
Commissioner Tim Corrigan said he believes the extra expense is justifiable because of the project’s importance to people living across the county.
“This additional money we’re investing really goes to benefit all the citizens of the county by enhancing the services of Yampa Valley Medical Center and helping YVEA in the future in terms of the rates it charges its customers,” Corrigan said. “It’s hard to quantify, but there are so many people who want to move here who are location neutral (workers) and need bandwidth.”
The new cable is being counted on to build upon the potential of a carrier-neutral location, which was created in 2014 in downtown Steamboat to attract competing bandwidth providers and lower costs.
The new project also represents the highest priority laid out by broadband consultant Diane Kruse, who was engaged by the county late last year to lay out strategies for enticing telecoms to help the region build the “middle mile” of high-speed internet connectivity needed to ultimately reach homes, smaller businesses and smaller governments in the county.
The key for smaller counties and communities such as Routt is to leverage grants to help build the costly middle mile, which doesn’t offer returns to the private sector, to get them on board with a project, Kruse said in March.
Corrigan said the project also will deliver broadband to the southern city limits, representing the future jump-off point for extending service further into the county.
County Manager Tom Sullivan said the consortium of community institutions pursuing the new fiber optic line originally only received one project bid of slightly less than $3 million, which the commissioners rejected. However, the five institutions had deliberately not sought a proposal from another fiber optic installation firm, Circle H Construction, Inc., of Nampa, Utah, because it was contracted to the consulting engineering firm retained by the county to prepare the job for bids.
When the original bid came in too high, Sullivan turned to Circle H, which recently completed a large project for neighboring Rio Blanco County and received a more attractive proposal.
Sullivan said YVEA, the medical center and the school district have also agreed to the higher price, and the Steamboat Springs City Council is being briefed on the cost increase this week.
Because it’s now deep into the construction season and the fiber optic cable has yet to be ordered, the project, which was to be completed this summer, now has a completion date of August 2017.
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