By Randi Pierce
Archuleta County’s Board of County Commissioners approved Tuesday a three-way contract with the Town of Pagosa Springs and USA Communications that will allow for the laying of fiber optic strands for government use — the final piece of the puzzle needed for the placement of the fiber optic.
The agreement, which the town approved on June 5, will help in creating a fiber optic network within Pagosa Springs that will service public facilities at a reduced cost and is part of a larger regional telecommunication and broadband infrastructure improvement project.
That larger project, through the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments (SWCOG), is made up of 12 of 15 local governmental entities and was awarded a $3 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs (DoLA).
The agreement with USA Communications is the first use of the grant by the county and town, who learned of USA Communication’s intent to lay fiber and contacted the company with the idea to partner to create a system at a reduced cost.
USA Communications plans to lay the cable along U.S. 160, from North Pagosa Boulevard through downtown — a route that closely follows the needs for the town and county project.
Per the cost-share agreement, the town and county will pay 100 percent of the cost to lay 12 strands of fiber within USA Communication’s conduit, with the cable to be placed by the company.
The town and county will pay 50 percent of the cost to lay the fiber, and the company will be responsible for maintenance, with cost to be determined based on specific factors leading to the need for repair.
Also per the agreement, the town and county will provide any needed permits, bonds or licenses required as part of the installation at no cost to USA Communications.
Upon completion of the project, the town and county will own the 12 strands of the fiber optic cable.
The county approved an agreement with the town on Aug. 2 for the town to serve as the contracting agency with USA Communications, meaning the county would reimburse the town a portion of any costs incurred on the project per that cost-share agreement.
“Finally,” Commissioner Clifford said, to which County Administrator Greg Schulte noted that it was a, “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to get the infrastructure for a reduced cost.
Other local, public entities are also participating with the broadband, Schulte said, making it possible to bundle the needs of all the entities and seek a lower bid amount to run Internet through the fibers.
Additionally, Schulte said, the increased Internet bandwidth will mean the county can further utilize existing software programs that require Internet capabilities the county does not currently possess.
Schulte and Town Manager David Mitchem were both unaware of the timeline for the laying of the fiber, but Mitchem indicated that USA Communications had already started with work along the route.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, The BoCC approved the submittal of a grant application to the Colorado Court Security Fund Program.
The county has received the grant several times since its inception in 2008, and is used to fund one full-time position, one halftime position, and equipment acquisition to increase the security of the courtroom located upstairs in the courthouse.
The grant is intended for small courthouses in Colorado to increase security.