Sunday, August 30, 2020

Oconee County Commissioners Told To Expect Contract Next Month On Broadband Expansion Project

***County Administrator Outlines Project***

County Administrator Justin Kirouac told Oconee County commissioners at their meeting last week that he expects to have a contract to bring before them next month to move forward on broadband expansion in the county.

The county will partner with Smart City Capital of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to create a new company, Kirouac said, that will build out 540 miles of fiber throughout the county, including an 80 mile fiber ring.

The plan includes strategic tower locations throughout the county that will broadcast wireless Internet, co-locate cell service facilities, provide redundancy, and improve public safety coverage, Kirouac said.

The county will be obligated for about $4.5 million from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that will be on the ballot on Nov. 3, Kirouac said.

“I did want to give a general update on sort of where we are,” Kirouac told the Board. “We are in the middle of contract negotiations right now.”

Broadband Outline

Kirouac said the proposal now being fashioned “has morphed from the original concept to something that we think will be really fantastic for Oconee County.”

Kirouac And Commissioners John Daniell,
Mark Thomas, Mark Saxon

The county will enter into a 20-year partnership with Smart City Capital, Progressive Communications, which has offices in Macon, Nokia&Infinity, a national firm, and Point Broadband, which operates mostly in the southeast, according to Kirouac.

It will take two and half years to build out the 80 mile fiber ring and the 540 miles of fiber throughout the county, Kirouac.

At that point, about 5,000 to 6,000 homes will be passed by the network, he said.

At the end of the 20-year agreement, the county will receive ownership of the network, Kirouac told the Board.

“We can then turn around and re-up with the company or have somebody else run it,” Kirouac said. Or the county could become “a utility” itself, he said.

“This is a project that will ultimately really change the narrative on Oconee County from a wireless and broadband perspective,” he said.

Polling Location Update

Fran Leathers, director of Elections and Registration for Oconee County, reported to the Board on Tuesday on the changes the Board of Elections and Registrations has made for the Nov. 3 election.

Leathers And Board

The Athens Academy Precinct will move from Athens Academy Spartan Center to Nations Church, 8780 Macon Highway. The name of polling location will be Nations Church.

Bishop Area Community Center and the Farmington Community Center both will move to Bishop Baptist Church, 1110 Old Bishop Road. The name of polling location will be Bishop Baptist Church.

North High Shoals Town Hall and North Oconee High School Field House both will move to Grace Fellowship Church, 1120 Malcom Bridge Road. The name of polling location will be Grace Fellowship Church.

Farmington and North High Shoals voters will be voting at a polling site location outside of their precinct boundaries due to the lack of availability of a facility within the precinct to accommodate voting equipment, electrical capacity, and anticipated large voter turnout, Leathers told the Board.

Early voting for the Nov. 3 election will be held at the Civic Center only, Leathers said.

Road Projects

Jody Woodall, Public Works director for Oconee County, gave the Board an update on the SR 53 (Hog Mountain Road) roundabouts at the intersection of that Road with Snows Mill Road and Rocky Branch Road and of Rays Church Road and Malcom Bridge Road.

Woodall And Board

The county issued a request for qualifications that was due on June 4, and Woodall said he has narrowed the list of proposals down to a single firm and that he expects to bring a proposal to the Board for consideration on Tuesday.

Woodall said the project was a partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation and that the county was following all state and federal guidelines.

Woodall also presented a contract modification for work by E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. of Snellville on the completed bus and faculty entrance to the Malcom Bridge Road school campus.

The adjustment increases the costs of the project from $561,377 to $606,084 reflecting the addition of concrete not in the original contract and reconciliation of asphalt quantities, Woodall said.

The Board put this on the consent agenda for Tuesday.

The Georgia Department of Transportation contributed $300,000 of the project’s costs, according to County Administrator Kirouac.

Other Action

In other action, the Board put on the consent agenda for final approval on Tuesday the application by Eric Gisler, owner of The Olive Basket, 8851 Macon Highway, for a new alcohol license for the sale of beer and wine.

The Board gave final approval to the millage rate of 6.686 for the unincorporated parts of the county and 7.616 for the property within the county’s four cities.

The rate for the unincorporated parts of the county is unchanged, while the rate for the incorporated parts of the county last year was 7.626.

The Board also approved the millage rate of 16.5 for Oconee County Schools. That rate is unchanged from last year.


I watched the Board of Commissioners meeting from home via Zoom, but Philip Ashford attended the meeting and recorded the video below.

The video begins with a short public hearing on the millage rate proposal and then goes to the Aug. 25 meeting.

Woodall’s report is at 5:48 in the video.

Leathers’ report is at 13:11 in the video.

Kirouac’s report is at 17:42 in the video.


bill zorn said...

will everyone in oconee county have access to this new broadband service? we subsidize it with our taxes? there will be a charge for the residents that use the service? for those who don't, or can't?

Lee Becker said...

I don't think the answers to these questions are fully known at this point. The county will not be running the system but will be a partner in a company that does. Revenue from the operation is to be put back into the system, Kirouac said. I will try to follow developments and report them here.