Tahlequah Daily Press

August 20, 2013

Council OKs broadband agreement

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

City councilors have given their OK to a service agreement with Rural Broadband Services Corp., which hopes to one day provide services to the county.

RBSC officials have been working with representatives of the city council and the Tahlequah Industrial Authority in recent months, and have also requested a pole attachment agreement with Tahlequah Public Works Authority.

TIA trustees recently approved a 25-year commercial lease for RBSC, contingent upon a pole attachment agreement with TPWA.

TPWA trustees last week put off any action on RBSC’s request, citing an ongoing issue between the Federal Communications Commission and TPWA.

Cliff Wright, an attorney representing RBSC, told city councilors Monday that RBSC will continue working with TPWA to work out the details of a pole attachment agreement. Wright said his understanding of existing regulations is that TPWA cannot ultimately deny RBSC’s request.

Wright said the agreement approved Monday between RBSC and the city council – like the agreement between RBSC and TIA – is contingent upon a pole attachment agreement being worked out. If the issue with TPWA is prolonged or ultimately ends up in litigation, the city is at no risk.

“If a legal issue arises, we’ll work together to resolve it,” Wright said, referring to the requested pole-attachment agreement with TPWA.

Wright said RBSC is “putting our hand out” in the spirit of partnership to work with the city, TIA, and TPWA.

In other matters, Kirk Boatright, a local property owner and engineer, expressed his concern toward the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s plans to reroute State Highway 82 from north Tahlequah to West 710 Road.

Boatright said ODOT’s proposals for rerouting S.H. 82 by 2021 include the “poorest engineering design I’ve ever seen.”

“I’m here because I care for Tahlequah,” Boatright said.

Businesses along the existing S.H. 82 north would suffer – and possibly go bankrupt – under ODOT’s proposals, Boatright suggested.

The state’s plans would also halt expansion of new businesses in that northern area of the city, at least for the next several years, he said.

Boatright has proposed his own plan, which would follow the existing alignment of S.H. 82 north, from Grand Avenue to Jones Road. He said following the existing alignment would be in line with a previous plan ODOT put forth, but has since abandoned.

“I think they’ve already made their decision,” Boatright said. “Some of us are very much concerned about what’s going to happen.”

Nichols told Boatright that ODOT officials have promised to take Boatright’s plan and conduct an impact study.

Ward 1 Councilor Diane Weston asked what effect the council can actually have on ODOT’s decision. Nichols said the city cannot stop ODOT from following through with any plans, but councilors can act as a political authority to make a recommendation.

Ward 4 Councilor Linda Spyres asked that a resolution be placed on the next council agenda that would request ODOT follow the existing S.H. 82 alignment in the northern part of the city, rather than its proposed alternate routes.