City debates fees, agreement for fiber in ROW

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     In November 2017, Jerry Pasker of Monticello spoke with the Monticello City Council regarding his fiber high-speed Internet project.

     At the time, Pasker informed the council that his fiber was being trenched in coordination with an Alliant Energy project in the city’s right-of-way. Now, Pasker and his business partner, Brock Schneiderman, are looking to expand the project throughout the city to offer an additional Internet service provider (ISP) option to residents.

     The company, Veloxium, started with the Vanourny Addition in town. Pasker said they plan to expand that throughout Monticello.

     The recent discussion centered on whether the city should charge Veloxium a franchise fee, as well as an agreement for use of the ROW and future maintenance of the lines.

     “Any time anyone is installing in our ROW there’s a permit fee,” said City Administrator Doug Herman. He said the city also gets franchise fees from companies such as Alliant and Black Hills Energy. Herman explained the city council has the authority to institute such a fee.

     Herman acknowledged the obvious benefits to the community and its residents with high-speed fiber, but said the city has some concerns moving forward with permitting and maintenance.

     “A lot of things need to be ironed out regardless of the fee discussed,” he said.

     Council member Dave Goedken asked Pasker whether the fiber lines would be located electronically to prevent issues in the ROW. He said it’s worth the fee to pay Iowa One Call to come on scene and mark the utility. “It’s critical is you have infrastructure buried,” said Goedken. “It’s protected.”

     Pasker if the lines aren’t marked, it would be on them, Veloxium, as the installer to repairs and fix any issues that might arise.

     Pasker said he is agreeable to an agreement between their business and the city, but wants to get the project moving sooner rather than later.

     “An agreement is fine, but let us go in the short-term,” proposed Pasker. “We’re so many months into this and it’s very frustrating.” Pasker asked if they could get a timeline from the city or an outline of a proposed agreement to keep things moving.

     “We just want to provide Internet,” he said.

     Pasker said this high-speed service would bring value into the community, add value to the homes and residential areas. Herman, who contacted the county assessor, said the value is debatable and wouldn’t come into play right away. “From a property tax standpoint, it would take a while to add value, but it could over time as owners see the value in it,” explained Herman.

     Mayor Brian Wolken asked Pasker what his 10-year plan might be.

     “This is not economically viable to do just one neighborhood,” addressed Pasker. “Our plan is to do neighborhood after neighborhood through town.” He said as far as where the service gets extended next is up to the local demand. “We need to show it works in one neighborhood first.”

     With almost 900 homes in Monticello, Pasker said they want to hit them all.

     Herman warned Pasker that city ROW gets full, and once it’s full they can’t allow more services to have access. “There is significant competition to get in the ROW, and cities can demand more compensation.”

     Council member Johnny Russ urged Pasker and Schneiderman to fill out and return a ROW application and return it to City Hall, knocking one item off the list. Herman offered that the city could have “everything ironed out before the next city council meeting (June 4).”

     “We appreciate your invest in the community,” praised Goedken.

     Pasker said, “This is just a start.”

In other city business:

     • The city is seeking any interested citizens of the community to serve on the Planning and Zoning Board. To keep the board gender balanced, the city is looking for female community members.

     • The council tabled the approval of the Brick Paver Policy. The motion, though, included adding city brick to the pavement in front of City Hall.

     • The council tabled action to set a timeframe from which property owners can apply for tax abatement under city code.

     Herman told the council that two separate incidents have come up that need to be addressed. Until then, he urged the council to consider setting a timeline.

     • The council approved an agreement regarding MYBSA and the use of Monticello School District-owned property/facilities. While MYBSA has used the school’s facilities, no formal agreement has ever been in place.



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