Chesterton Tribune



TIF board awards fiber optic network design to Nitco

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The Chesterton Redevelopment Commission has tapped a Hebron DSL and broadband provider to design a fiber optic network intended to make the town the preferred destination in Northwest Indiana not only of established firms looking to expand or re-locate but of innovative start-ups and other intellectual capitalists.

At a special meeting Monday night, members voted unanimously to award the design contract to Nitco. Contract price: $124,275.

The commission had previously shortlisted Nitco and a second firm. Both companies are “high quality,” Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann said. “Both are fully capable of doing the job.” Nitco’s proposal, however, was priced approximately $36,000 less than the other firm’s.

Among other things, Nitco’s brief includes mapping the fiber-optic network’s route--consisting of an estimated 10 to 10.5 miles of conduit--finding a site for a bricks-and-mortar data center for the management of the network, and preparing both the construction drawings and the technical specifications.

Nitco should have a completed design in hand by June 15, Lukmann said, at which time the town will go out to bid for a construction contractor. By then too John Nekus of Monroe Street Group, who prepared the initial RFI to which Nitco responded, should have finished specifications for the actual network operator, responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the infrastructure and for customer billing and marketing.

After the meeting Nekus told the Chesterton Tribune that, conceivably, ground could be broken on the network by the middle of September, with installation completed early in 2017. The construction process is likely to be minimally invasive, Nekus said, with little actual excavation, as most of the four-inch conduit can probably be installed in the right-of-way by means of directional-boring. Conduit has already been installed south of the Indiana Toll Road, as part of the Ind. 49 corridor project.

The town will own both the conduit and the fiber optic line, Nekus added. “That will allow the town to maintain network neutrality and to grow a revenue stream that will make the network self-sufficient.” Those revenues, in turn, will be split with the future operator under the terms of a profit-sharing agreement.

Fiber-optic networks, Nekus has said, are rapidly becoming a 21st-century “infrastructure imperative” as important to a community as access to clean water, natural-gas and electric service, and sewer treatment facilities. And the commission is hopeful that Chesterton’s own fiber-optic network will prove a huge economic-development boon. And more than that, an educational one too, under a proposal to provide the Duneland Schools with access to it.

“This will put Chesterton in the position of being on the cutting edge,” Member Jim Ton said.

Bond Refunding

Lukmann took a moment at the end of the meeting to report on the bond refunding which the commission put into motion early in January. The results, he said, have been little short of spectacular.

The intention had been, by refunding the 2009 bond issue used to finance the South Calumet Business District, to save something on the order of $200,000 in interest payments over the remaining 14 years of the bonds’ lifetime.

In fact, the refunded bonds’ net interest rate was cut nearly in half, from 4.7 percent to 2.4 percent, for a cumulative savings of $402,000. “We hoped to hit a sweet spot in the interest rate,” Lukmann said. “Well, we blew it away.”

Lukmann added that the refund’s underwriter, PiperJaffray, the bond counsel, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, and the town’s contracted financial consultant, London Witte Group, all did a superb job in shepherding the refund to such a successful conclusion.


Posted 3/17/2016




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