Village Broadband Deal with Frontier Falling Apart

The Village of Egg Harbor put its broadband upgrade on hold, as negotiations hit a roadblock on March 14, according to Village Administrator Megan Sawyer.

In December, the village board discussed issuing more than $2.4 million in bonds to pay Frontier $420,000 to bury fiber; to cover $1.4 million in additional and unforeseen costs for the local improvements along state Highway 42 and utility burial downtown; and for the village’s $595,000-share of a new fire truck for the joint fire department with the Town of Egg Harbor. 

Since then, the village’s half of the fire engine cost has decreased just slightly to $580,000, but the “total need” for additional financing for the Hwy 42 corridor upgrade has grown to $1,635,000, said Brian Roemer, Senior Municipal Advisor with Ehlers Inc.

Roemer said to cover the additional Hwy 42 corridor improvements, utility-burial costs and fire truck, the village on May 7 could issue $2,215,000 in bonds (or general-obligation notes, if Gov. Tony Evers signs a bill to allow 20-year notes instead of 10-year notes this spring).

The board is marching toward borrowing that money but is backing out the broadband spending. That would have had to happen anyway, according to Roemer, who said the village could not legally have combined a bond issue or government note for the Frontier project along with the other spending. 

He said the infrastructure and fire engine bonds or notes would be tax-exempt, and those for the broadband project would not be. Regardless, Sawyer said the village is at the point where it will probably start over with the process of selecting an Internet Service Provider (ISP) partner.

On the weekend before the March 13 village board meeting, Sawyer received information from Frontier that substantially increased the price tag for installing fiber that could serve all addresses in the village.

“We were still working through the contract negotiation when we were informed by Frontier of the significant increase in project cost,” Sawyer stated in an email. 

After closed-session discussion, the Contract Negotiation Ad Hoc Committee meeting entered open session March 14 and passed a motion to review the original request for proposals (RFP) “in anticipation to reissue the RFP for the purpose of establishing a fiber-to-premise broadband solution in the Village of Egg Harbor.”