Chesterton Tribune



TIF board retains consultants to review best ways to structure fiber optic lease

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It’s been a little more than a year since the Chesterton Redevelopment Commission formally made the installation of fiber-optic infrastructure a TIF-eligible project.

The idea is for the commission to use tax increment financing moneys to pay for a network of fiber-optic conduit--just the sleeve, not the cable itself--which the town would then lease to fiber-optic providers. The vision is of a near-future Chesterton becoming the place in Northwest Indiana for high-tech firms in need of high-speed and -capacity Internet access.

Or as Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann put it at Monday’s meeting, “Through TIF, you’ll be able to enhance broadband data reception and ingoing/outgoing capability with speed unheard of in this area.”

Existing businesses will reap the benefits and new ones looking for the same slick service will gravitate here, Lukmann predicted.

In the last 12 months, though, the scope of the project has grown, at least on paper, with the City of Valparaiso taking an interest in fiber optic as well. “There’s been really good progress and open communication with Valparaiso,” Lukmann announced, and the possibility is now on the table of putting conduit in the ground along the whole of the Ind. 49 corridor “and maybe beyond.”

So the time has come, he told the commission, to resolve a number of issues, “critical” among them the actual structure of the transaction with the fiber-optic providers. Some communities in the U.S. have entered into public/private partnerships, others have found purely commercial solutions, but what may be best for Chesterton isn’t at all clear at the moment, Lukmann said. For that reason he recommended that the commission retain the services of two consultants, Monroe Street Group of Chicago and Bingham Greenebaum Doll of Indianapolis.

Members voted unanimously to do so, approving a not-to-exceed contract with Monroe Street Group in the amount of $30,000 and a similar one with Bingham Greenebaum Doll in the amount of $25,000. “Hiring these consultants will get us to the point where we’ll have developed technical specs for whatever route we decide,” Lukmann said.

“In all parts of the country, fiber optic’s become almost essential to economic development,” Member Jeff Trout remarked after the vote. “A rising tide floats all boats. It will benefit everyone to have as much fiber optic in the ground as possible.”

“With fiber optic, we can attract the right sort of companies and businesses, high-tech firms with good paying jobs,” Member Nick Walding concurred.

Added Member Ed Schoenfelt, “This definitely supports the knowledge economy.”

Lukmann, while he was at it, observed that members proved themselves wise when, in formulating the specs for the Ind. 49 utility corridor project a couple of years ago, they went ahead and added fiber-optic conduit to the other infrastructure installed under the Toll Road and to the town’s southernmost corporate limit.

Battery Backed Up Traffic Signals

In other business, Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg made note of another wise move on the commission’s part: springing for battery back-up systems for the town’s traffic signals.

When, on Saturday, an errant farmer in Burns Harbor clipped a NIPSCO pole with his combine, power was lost to about 5,000 customers. Power was also lost to INDOT’s traffic signals along Ind. 49, causing no little congestion.

But the town’s signals--every one of them equipped with a battery back-up, at Broadway and South Calumet; at Indian Boundary and North Calumet, Plaza Drive, Council Drive, and Sand Creek Drive; and at 1100N and 100E--had all the juice they needed to keep traffic rolling smoothly, Schnadenberg said.

The batteries are good for as long as eight to 12 hours and, once grid power is restored to the signals, the batteries automatically re-charge, he added.

“From a safety standpoint, what a great thing to have,” Trout said. “No one’s taking chances trying to cross an intersection because the lights are down.”



Posted 8.26.2015




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