SIREPA finalizes an agreement on a broadband project > PenCityCurrent.com

Inks contracts with Lee County, Danville Telecom to produce 57 miles of new fiber optic infrastructure

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
CCP EDITOR

LEE COUNTY — Two agreements that will facilitate a $5 million broadband injection into Lee County were signed Thursday.

The Southeast Iowa Regional Economic and Port Authority has finalized contracts with Lee County and Danville Telecom to provide $1.91 million in financing for 57 miles of fiber optic cabling across the county .

The move is part of an effort jointly funded by Lee County, the State of Iowa, Danville Telecom and SIREPA to build a fiber optic backbone in the west-central portion of the county to the freeway. 16, then east and south to create a “redundant loop” that will provide Tier 1 service to more than 120 county homes.

Danville Telecom may also lease space on the fiber optic line to generate additional revenue.

Lee County’s money comes from the county’s allocation of America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and has already been approved by the Board of Supervisors. According to Lee County Supervisor Garry Seyb, the county already has the money and has appropriated the expenses.

SEIB

Additional money for the project comes from a competitive state broadband grant through the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).

SIREPA helped facilitate the project by applying for and securing funding from Lee County. The grant represents approximately 30% of the county’s total allocation, which was set by the county when ARPA funds were first released.

Mike Norris, executive director of the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, which serves as administrator for SIREPA, said the project specifically targets unserved and underserved areas of the county.

NORIS

“At the time we requested funding from Lee County, there were no final rules from the Treasury Department, so what we requested through the county was to serve unserved areas as determined by the OCIO, and that means areas that are documented to have less than 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload,” Norris said.

“We used that same plan to apply for the state.”

The county draws will be in two phases, one for installation, engineering and right-of-way, which would amount to approximately $700,000. The second phase of construction would require another county cash draw of $1.25 million. Approximately $37,000 of this second draw would be held by SIREPA to take advantage of any additional broadband incentives that may appear in the future, whether at the federal or state level.

Norris said the public/private partnership that was ushered in for the project is well regarded by the state and shows how the Port Authority can help facilitate projects like this.

SIREPA Vice President Mike Hickey said he initially had questions under the Lee County contract about how the money was paid to SIREPA and then to Danville Telecom.

“It looks like after rereading it we get the money from the county on request, so when Danville says they are ready to go, all we have to do is ask the county for the money and he just comes,” Hickey said.

Seyb said that was okay.

“We have the money now. We already have just over $3 million. It has already been approved by the board and we have the funding. Funding for this project is therefore secure,” said Seyb.

Norris said no other port authority in the state is engaged in projects of this size and scope and it shows the true value of the port authority in economic development.

SIREPA also played a critical role in securing the KL Megla building for the Lee County Economic Development Group. SIREPA effectively owns the building and has a lease contract with LCEDG.

Norris thanked the county and the Board of Supervisors for working with SIREPA to build momentum for the project.

“This has never been done before. We are plowing new land and we are the only port authority in the state to have done something as substantial as this. I think it’s worth putting on the record. Some of these things aren’t easy to do, but communication and partnerships are what made it possible,” Norris said.

“As people learn more about port authorities, guess who they call – SIREPA. We are doing things that were intended to be done. We have a great system in place and it shows in what we are about to do with broadband.

About Edward Fries

Check Also

Senate panel approves Huizenga’s NRTF funding bill

Measure includes 13 projects in Kent and Ottawa counties LANSING, Mich. – The Senate Appropriations …