Some unfortunate news. The internet provider I had been working with, Todd Gardner, has had to pull out from the project. We are not out of options, there are other providers who have expressed interest. This is a set-back, however, as Todd was the only provider planning to build a tower.

Until a few weeks ago Todd was pushing forward, putting together the requirements to apply for the tower permit. He was made aware, however, that the insurance, security deposit and certifications for the tower permit are required up front at the time of application. While He already knew about these expenses, he didn’t know he would have to pay for them before he knew if the application would be approved or if additional requirements must be met.

I talked with Todd at some length about the situation, but I think he summarizes it best in an email to me:

Chris, I know this is not the message you would like to hear, but given the overwhelming obstacles with your township administration, ordinances, and requirements… I am no longer interested in building a tower within the township.

My heart is in the project, but I do not feel that I am financially capable of making these large financial outlays required by the township up front… As you know, I have literally hundreds of hours into this project, and I understand you have even significantly more. This is why it pains me to tell you this unfortunate news.

The chief deal breakers for me are the unreasonable requirements that I would need Insurance, PE Engineering certification, and the performance guarantee all up front – before an application is even approved.

I think Todd was not just worried about the financial risks, but that other obstacles may come up as he tries to get variances and approvals.

I want to apologize to everyone for all of the false starts and false hopes. Solving this problem is not terribly expensive or complex. I’ve realized, however, that it will take more than my efforts to implement a community wide solution. A provider will have to work with and have confidence in the township, not me personally. If a tower was built, I believe other providers would be interested. One had contacted me last December, but he would not build a tower.

There are options that could be pursued to fund a tower. Some time ago, a neighbor suggested a kickstarter campaign to raise money. After hearing about a guy raising $50,000 to learn how to make potato salad, I think it is worth checking out. We could also form a neighborhood co-op to fund and/or manage the project. Also, the FCC and the USDA have programs to help fund rural broadband. I don’t have time to follow up on all of these ideas, please let me know if anyone can help pursue these options.

There are other options, such as building cheaper towers for personal use, that don’t involve the same township approvals. While not a community wide solution, anyone interested in pursuing this is welcome to contact me as well.

I spoke to John Kingsley, the township supervisor, about this situation just recently. I told him I thought that I had done about all I personally can do. For this to work, providers have to believe the township wants them in the community or they will turn away. I don’t want the same thing to happen to the next provider I may find. This is a community wide problem and the township Board, as our elected community representatives, needs to be proactive in the solution. Going forward, coming up with reasons why the township can’t do something, pointing fingers, or kicking the can down the road won’t sit well with the community.

I want to apologize again for the disappointing news. I encourage everyone to attend some of the township Board meetings and email the Board members. Ask them what they are doing to solve this problem. It will not go away on it’s own and it will only get worse as broadband access becomes more necessary for school, work and communication in the future.

The next township board meeting is on Tuesday, September 16 at 7:30 in the township hall. I will likely be there.

For reference, the Board member’s email addresses are:

Supervisor: John Kingsley
Clerk: Mary D. Heller
Treasurer: Carol Whitney
Trustee: Charles Estleman (no email)
Trustee: John Westman
Trustee: Richard Kleinschmidt
Trustee: Gary Koch

Chris Leonello