By Angie Baldelomar
Nex-Tech plans to expand services in the Oberlin community, burying fiber-optic cable to carry television, telephone and Internet service once the firm gets final approval from the City Council.
Four representatives of the firm explained the plan to the council at its meeting Thursday. They said Nex-Tech would use fiber-optic cable, which gives more speed on Internet services. This fiber-to-the-premises technology goes underground, they said, a process that usually takes about a month of construction and then another month for installation. Nex-Tech already provides Internet service to some institutions in town, including the City Library, the Decatur County courthouse, the city Police Department, among several others.
Nex-Tech asked for agreements with the city needed to start construction, including approval of a franchise agreement. The firm had proposed installing a fiber-optic system on city electric poles a few years ago, but gave up on that plan when engineers found the poles did not have enough room for another line.
The company’s representatives said that they were looking, with this franchise agreement, to “level the playing field.”
Cable provider Eagle Communications, they argued, under its current agreement with the city, does not pay a franchise fee. For competition to be neutral, Nex-Tech asked the city to do the same for it by not assessing a franchise fee on it, at least at first.
For that, Nex-Tech was asking for a year-long agreement with no franchise fee to pay. The representatives pointed out that Eagle’s agreement ends in December, when the city can negotiate a fee and fix the issue.
Although the council agreed with leveling the playing field, Councilman Jim Marchello pointed out that the issue would continue since there would be six months of Nex-Tech not paying the fee while Eagle was. Finally, it was agreed that the city would make an agreement with Nex-Tech for a little over six months.
Councilman Brandon Oien made the motion, and Mr. Marchello seconded. The agreement was approved on a 4-0 vote with Councilwoman Marilyn Horn absent.
This franchise agreement gives Nex-Tech the power to use the city rights of way, and to have customers in the city,
However, an existing ordinance, aside from the franchise agreement, which charges fees for laying cable prevented the motion from being fully approved.
Next-Tech representatives offered two options: to go only with the franchise agreement and ignore the ordinance, or to go with the ordinance and not pay the fees in it. The council members decided they need more time to discuss the status of the fees and decided to table the case until the next meeting on Thursday July 7.
In other business, the council:
• Approved a contract with Secure Energy Consulting Inc. fixing the city’s price for natural gas on 39.5 cents for the 2016-2017 year. Mr. Marchello made a motion, and Councilman Rusty Addleman seconded. The vote was 4-0.
• Approved an ordinance of setting fees for itinerant merchants. The ordinance will require house-to-house merchants to pay a $25-per-day license. Those operating from a single location could apply for a license for $100 per calendar year.
• Tabled for next meeting a decision on a proposed Community Development Block Grant Special Activities Project. City Treasurer Steve Zodrow proposed replacing
downtown curb, gutter and sidewalks as a project for the state grant this year. The other option is to help pay for new playground equipment at City Park, under a plan presented at the previous meeting.
• Approved a proposal to replace a 1977 Chevrolet dump truck with a newer model. The best option presented was $23,000 for a 1999 International 4700 dump truck. However, the council members said they needed to confirm the truck was in good shape before buying it.
This was published in the print edition of The Oberlin Herald on June 22, 2016.