​Council Considers Concerns about Fiber Optic Cost

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 13 meeting, the Sewanee Community Council revisited a discussion about how to apportion the expense of installing fiber optic infrastructure on the Domain. Much of the meeting was also devoted to discussing possible cell tower locations (see “Council Debates Another Cell Tower Location” on page 5). In addition, the council approved two Funding Project recommendations and appointed a new council representative.

In October, several council members suggested non-residents pay for a greater percentage of the fiber optic infrastructure installation. The project is a joint venture undertaken by Ben Lomand Connect, Duck River Electric, and the University. The University’s portion of the cost is $725,000. The University plans to pay for 15 percent of that based on the University’s ownership of 15 percent of the 555 leaseholds. The remaining cost will be assessed to the other leaseholders.

Superintendent of Leases Sallie Green researched the legality of charging non-residents more. “All charges must be proportional,” Green said referencing University counsel Lucy Singer. Non-residents cannot be charged a higher percentage based on their non-resident status. The lease-fee increase to pay for the infrastructure “will be proportional to the improvement value of your home,” Green explained.

Council representative Theresa Shackelford observed some residents might not be able to afford the lease fee increase. The median average increase will be $2,000 during a 10-year period, Shackelford said.

“Has everyone been told about this?” community resident Barbara Schlichting asked. “It will hit some residents hard.”

Shackelford suggested a portion of the Sewanee Community Funding Project monies be set aside to assist low-income residents.

The council will revisit the discussion at a future meeting. Information on the fiber optic project is available at <fiberforsewanee.com>.

The council approved two requests for Funding Project monies: $3,500 to the Sewanee Community Ballfield to restore the ballfield and $800 to the Parks Committee on behalf of Youth Soccer for soccer field markers.

Funding Project Chair Kate Reed said 11 proposals were still under consideration, with $15,700 remaining in the fund. Funds are earmarked “for physical improvements and amenities for the Domain.”

The council also approved the appointment of Paul Schutz to finish out the term of elected council representative Charles Whitmer. Vice-Chancellor McCardell welcomed Karen Singer, who will finish out the term of appointed representative Austin Oakes.

The council set the Arthur Knoll Community Clean Up for April 11.

The council meets next March 23.