SCUGOG: The municipality is continuing to work towards the establishment of a new high-speed internet service for the township.
At a meeting on the morning of Monday, Sept. 28, councillors approved a motion to move forward with an application to the Small Communities Fund for almost $28 million. The funds would be used to create a Township-owned broadband network enabling high-speed internet in previous under-serviced rural areas of Scugog as well as another option for in-town customers.
The funding would be a one-third partnership with the provincial and federal governments. Under the parameters of the partnership, Scugog would be on the hook for about $8.6 million. Project manager Laura Bradley added that a debenture is one funding option open to the township. The total cost of the project is currently estimated to be $27,771,086. Some of those costs includes over $4,000,000 to set up towers for fibre connection, $2,400,000 for electronics, $500,000 to set up wifi in hamlets and almost $3,000,000 for project management and design. The costs presented were based off of a report submitted to council by Taylor Warwick Consulting.
Mayor Tom Rowett questioned the project management and design cost, saying it appeared “really high.” However, Ms. Bradley explained that the costs for Scugog could come down if the project is well managed.
“Sometimes you can get the costs down even below 10 per cent, it depends how you manage the project and it also depends what you can have coded as design,” she said.
Council also approved an asset transfer policy for the municipal services corporation being set up to provide the internet. The entire project is expected to be complete by 2020.
The proposed grant will not be funding the current internet project on Scugog Island, as it is currently being partially funded by the Connecting Canadians grant obtained this past summer.
At a special council meeting on Monday, Sept. 21, council was told that the Island project, that would service more than 700 potential customers on Scugog Island, as well as businesses along Water St. and Hwy. 7A. by the time it is completed in 2019, would cost a total of approximately $8.65 million.
Scugog treasurer Trena DeBruijn said that the township would attempt to secure a loan of $5.6 million from Durham Region, with another $1.1 million coming from Scugog’s hydro reserves to cover start-up costs. The rest of the funding would be coming from Scugog’s purchase of Communicate Freely, which recently received $1.88 million from the Connecting Canadians grant.
The terms of the $5.6 million loan would require the township to pay back the Region $397,000 per year for the next 20 years.
However, Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew questioned the use of the hydro reserves for funding the internet project, arguing that the funds could be needed in case of an emergency situation.
“What if we use all of the $2.4 million in our hydro reserve and we have an emergency? If we have a road collapse or a bridge collapse, what are we going to do?” she asked.
Ms. DeBruijn answered that, in that situation, the municipality would likely seek out grants or other loans to cover repair costs.
Consultant Craig Dobson also explained to councillors that according to his projections, the internet service would begin to turn a profit for the township in its fifth year of operation.
Mayor Tom Rowett stressed that this project is very important for the residents of Scugog Island.
“In today’s day and age, (internet) is a critical utility,” he said. “There is a great need to look at some solutions.”