CAI build to “start very soon”

Says Town Manager
Fri, 08/10/2018 - 8:45am

“We’re happy to report that we’re ready to start very soon.”

That’s what Town Manager Ed Roberge told the Town Council Monday night about installation of a broadband network to service Block Island’s five community anchor institutions. The Town Council unanimously approved authorizing Roberge to execute agreements with the project’s contractors. 

The project has a budget of $675,000, of which $125,000 will be funded by the Block Island School, Medical Center and Island Free Library. A bond amount of $550,000 was authorized at the May 2018 Financial Town Meeting. The CAI network equates to an annual debt service of $40,216, and $19 dollars per million of accessed property annually to taxpayers.

The town is entering into 10-year agreements with OSHEAN, a non-profit, Rhode Island-based coalition that will facilitate broadband services, and Sertex, LLC, a Conn-based utility services company that will construct the fiber infrastructure. In August of 2015, the town leased eight strands of fiber optic cable embedded in National Grid’s sea2shore cable for one dollar per year for a 20-year term.

The CAI network, as it’s being called, will accommodate broadband service for the Police Station, Medical Center, library, Town Hall and the school. The completion date for the project is Dec. 31, 2018.

“We’re excited to bring forth the fiber build agreement,” said Roberge, who explained the agreements and the project’s scope to the council, which he said would incorporate expansion measures for an intended island-wide broadband residential and commercial network.

Reading from his report, he said, “Building a network that meets the needs of island institutions across different disciplines, and leverages federal subsidies to the extent available, and adheres to the contractual framework around the submarine fiber, has proven to be a complex and time-intensive undertaking. The contractual agreements that will enable this project to move forward successfully are the result of vigorous and well-informed content and legal review, and open and honest negotiations with the town’s vendors, and our partners.”

Roberge credited Town Finance Director Amy Land with shepherding the project to this point. “Hats off to Amy, and her team,” said Roberge. “We recommend the Town Council’s approval.”

First Warden Ken Lacoste, who made the motion to approve, seconded by Second Warden André Boudreau, asked where the building that will house the network’s operation would be located. The budgeted cost for the prefabricated building is $214,778, which includes $7,000 for its transport to the island.

“We identified a site behind the Police Station” for that building, said Land, noting that the structure would be 11-feet by 20-feet. “And we’re working on the application for the special use permit process. As you’re facing the building, it will be in the back left corner behind the station.”

“That’s because you exhausted all other possibilities of other structures that are already existing?” asked Lacoste.

“Yes,” said Land, while also noting that the proposed location is a “secure,” and “accessible” site.  

“What are the possibilities, going forward, of tying into the Block Island Power Company with this fiber network?” asked Lacoste.

Roberge said that although BIPCo is not part of the CAI network project, it is a “critical component to the community. We will explore that,” he said. “We believe that it’s feasible, and doable, and probably advisable.”

“While this CAI network is being installed are we going to have the ability to expand, or connect, to a residential and commercial network?” asked Councilor Chris Willi.

“I think we would refer to that as the Block Island Broadband component, as opposed to the CAI network,” said Roberge, who noted that “capacity for expansion” has been built into the project and the town will be “working on an RFP shortly. It would essentially be the unlit portion, or dry portion” of the CAI project. “It would be ready to go.”

“I think that’s important for the public to know, because of the questions that were raised after that Financial Town Meeting,” said Willi.


In other news, the Town Council unanimously approved (5-0) authorizing the Town Manager to execute a financing request of $1,995,000 to Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank for stabilizing the West Beach revetment. At its April 18 meeting, the Council approved hiring Pawtucket-based RC&D, Inc., for the project. According to Town Engineer Jim Geremia, the project has a life expectancy of about 15 to 20 years, the impact of weather permitting.

The Town Council unanimously approved adoption of the town’s Land Management Plan regarding the Breed Property off Corn Neck Road, with discussion of accelerating mowing of the property in the first years.

Roberge detailed the Breed Property’s history, noting its complex configuration and rights-of-way. The Town Council floated the idea of holding a public meeting on the subject.  

Resident David Lewis commended Roberge for his report, and noted the importance of obtaining documents from the town’s website prior to meetings.

At the urging of Councilor Martha Ball, the Council voted unanimously to revisit its March 5 vote to approve an amendment to the town’s Zoning Oridinance’s defintion of “developable land.” The revision was ostensibly to bring the ordinance into compliance with state law, but Ball contended the new language was not presented to the Council accurately.

With its vote, the council directed the Planning Board to reconsider the amended version and to explain its rationale for proposing the change. The council placed its reconsideration vote on the Aug. 15 agenda.

The Council scheduled a hearing for Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. for discussing amendment of the town’s general ordinances to add a section titled “Dune Ordinance Protection.” The Town Council deliberated how enforcement should be labeled, as a general penalty or a violation. Bill McCombe, the former Police Chief who was in attendance at the meeting, helped offer the definitions. He defined a general penalty as a misdemeanor charge that can be punishable by jail and/or a fine up to $500. He defined a violation as a civil infraction that can amount to a court summons and fine. The Council will be deliberating the ordinance and its penalty at the October hearing.

The Town Council will also be discussing the process for how items are placed on its agenda for discussion. The Town Council asked Town Solicitor Katherine Merolla to look into how the item should be worded on the Council’s next agenda.

The next Town Council meeting is Wednesday, August 15 at 7 p.m.