The Grand Junction City Council held their biweekly meeting on Wednesday night, with the highlight of the agenda as the vote on whether to execute milestone two with SiFi/Nokia.
SiFi/Nokia is a company that supplies broadband around the city. Following an the voting of an amendment to the bill that failed 4-3, the council moved to the vote on the project where it failed 5-2.
The plan started in 2014 and continued to develop through Wednesday night’s meeting. The majority of the time was spent researching the topic of broadband and determining what the city viewed as the main objectives to get out of any agreement and what company best suited those goals.
As illustrated in City Manager Greg Caton’s presentation, the city council’s goals for this project are as follows: “Ubiquitous. Ownership. Multiple Provider Network. Public/Private Partnership. Broadband services would be available to residences for $50-$80 per month and to businesses for around $300 per month.”
If the Grand Junction City Council had approved to execute milestone two, the city would have moved on to the next stage in this process. This next stage would have included final draft agreements with SiFi/Nokia, selecting Internet service providers (ISPs) and gaining more information about what all SiFi/Nokia had to offer.
While the approval of this bill would not have signed the contract for the $70 million project, it would have moved the city closer toward signing that deal. However, that number played a huge role in the direction that the committee voted.
“I think there are other alternatives out there that we need to seriously consider,” councilman Duncan McArthur said. “I have all the reasons in the world to do this, but I have 70 million reasons not to do this.”
While some members felt concerned by that number, there were others that felt the money was not the biggest question mark facing this agreement.
“So, for me the question isn’t about the finances of this network,” councilman Chris Kennedy said. “I think we have done a lot of work on this front end of these conversations. But ultimately we are providing the opportunity to move forward with the actual nuts and bolts of the feasibility of this network.”
Another major concern that was brought up was the uncertainty that would follow the approval of milestone two.
“The challenge that I am having with all of this is that it is still murky,” councilwoman Barbara Taylor Smith said. “I get mixed opinions from people about technology and about where technology is going, about what the community needs.”
One councilman felt that the project was a good idea that would help Colorado Mesa University students gain more from their education.
“It would improve the educational opportunities for our students,” councilman Bennett Boeschenstein said. “And I know CMU does have broadband. I talked to President [Tim] Foster and this would enable kids in their homes to really have access to the Internet and much better educational opportunities.”
Following the councilmembers comments on the issue, Mayor Phyllis Norris held public comments from those in attendance prior to the council’s vote. Sixteen members from the community came forward and voiced their opinions of the subject, ranging from why they should continue with this project and why they should not.
After the completion of all the public comments and another set of comments from the councilmembers, they moved to the vote.
Councilmembers McArthur, Chazen Taggart, Smith and Norris voted against the contract, while Kennedy and Boeschenstein were in favor of it.
Following the vote, the council members briefly discussed where they are going to go from here before adjourning the meeting. The next meeting will be on Wednesday, March 15.