Guest Commentary: County is a good utility partnerWhile driving up Highway 2 on my way to Virginia for a county meeting this month I kept noticing in our county right-of-way power poles, buried phone and other utility lines. This got me thinking about any revenue the county may receive for usage of our right-of-ways.
By: Paul Bergman, Lake County Commissioner, Lake County News Chronicle
While driving up Highway 2 on my way to Virginia for a county meeting this month I kept noticing in our county right-of-way power poles, buried phone and other utility lines. This got me thinking about any revenue the county may receive for usage of our right-of-ways.
A phone call to county Engineer Al Goodman gave me the answer. The county doesn’t receive revenue from any utility company for right-of-way usage or fees for any utility permits.
I pondered why this would be and I believe it is because some 60 years ago the county commissioners understood these are services that we all need and they wanted to be good corporate partners with all the utilities. I feel that they did this for the good of the people. So, in effect, the taxpayers of Lake County have been subsidizing our local utilities for more than 60 years.
In fact, the city of Two Harbors has no pole fee, so Mediacom and Frontier have in essence been subsidized by the taxpayers and businesses of Two Harbors as well.
Most utility companies, and Two Harbors is one of them because they own the power poles, charge a per-pole fee to hang utility lines on their poles. Co-operative Light & Power charges $10 per pole.
Here is where I am going with this. In regard to the county’s Fiber Optic Initiative, I have been challenged that Lake County should not be installing this network using federal dollars and government subsidies. The telecoms and utility companies in the county (i.e. Frontier, Qwest, Mediacom and CLP) feel this is unfair to them. This seems to me to be corporate amnesia.
The county is building a fiber optic network, which these same utilities may use, that incorporates a public safety communication network we do not currently have. The educational, commercial, and safety benefits are enormous. The economic development and job creation potential has been documented by other communities that have put in a fiber optic network to homes and businesses.
Each of these utilities could have applied for the same funding the county is using. If one of these utilities had applied for the funding, the county would have terminated its application and would have supported the utility getting the funding and, again, being a good corporate partner.
The County sent out a Request for Proposal (RFP) looking for a partner and none of these utilities responded. I do not know how much more the county could have done to have one of our utilities either partner with the county or apply for the funding to build this network.
Being a good corporate partner is a two-way street. We all need to work together and do what is right for the people.