Alford Municipal Light Plant (MLP) Update

Progress Report May 25, 2017

The Alford MLP is happy to report progress on several fronts:

1.)   Design work has been contracted with CTC Technology & Energy and the field survey has begun this week. Please keep an eye out for Jim Jordan,  the field service engineer from CTC, who is surveying our town for design of fiber backbone and residential service drops. To date, 138 property owners have signed up for service drops, so if you haven’t already done so, please sign and send in your Fiber Drop Access Agreement so that a connection to your home can be included in the design. We will be maintaining an “Access Sign-up” Thermometer by the public notice board outside the Town Office to provide feedback on the percent of returned Agreements.

2.)   National Grid has informed us that beginning in June, they will be starting the “make ready” modifications to their utility poles, including necessary pole replacements, so that the fiber-optic cable can be attached per our design. Verizon’s make-ready work is already under way.

3.)   We have been in constant dialog with the state regarding funding available to us from the Last Mile program. The final application is nearly complete and we expect to have a substantial portion of the project funded.

4.)   Since Alford will own the fiber-optic network we will have the opportunity to select a Network Operator and Internet Service Provider. We are exploring several options that will meet current and future needs of our residents.

5.)   Several questions came to our attention during the information sessions and from subsequent inquiries. We have posted these with answers in the FAQ section of this website. We will continue to update this as questions of general interest arise.

6.)   Finally, please pass the word to your neighbors in Alford that they can sign up to receive updates on the project by going to the “subscribe” form on the Alford MLP website: www.alfordmamlp.com/subscribe/

Alford Municipal Light Plant Board              Volunteer Consultants to the Board

Tom Doyle                                                              Clark Downs -- Industry

Bruce Forster                                                         Jay Weintraub -- Finance

Jim Hall

Bob Lichter, Chair                                                        

Joe Nicolosi

 

Previous Newsletters:      Progress Report    March 26, 2017

 The Alford MLP, in conjunction with the Alford Select Board, Town Counsel, Town Treasurer, and others, continues to plan and execute our objective of completing a state-of-the-art fiber optic network in Alford, as quickly as possible, and at a reasonable cost.  Once again, we report on our recent activities and give a sense of where the project stands.

 A Frustrating Delay In early November, we published our Design/Build Request for Proposals (RFP) for the design and construction of the network. We received excellent responses from six bidders. The Board, with the assistance of consulting firm CTC Technologies and Energy, reviewed the bids, interviewed each of the bidders, and created a ranking that complies with State law for evaluation RFPs.

 However, forces beyond our control have now delayed progress. The Design/Build RFP had been prepared with the advice and counsel of MBI, the Alford Town Counsel, and the MLP Special Counsel. Toward the beginning of the review process, we learned from the State Office of the Inspector General that our procedures were likely to be contrary to Massachusetts state law, and we should have followed the more-complicated, expensive, and less efficient three-step Design/Bid/Build Process. After several phone conversations, and meetings with State legislators, members of the MLP Board met on March 20th in Boston with Deborah Anderson, the Assistant Attorney General responsible for interpreting the admittedly murky public procurement laws. The outcome has both positives and negatives. The negative is that we may not combine design and construction into a single bid. The positives are two-fold. First, the design solicitation does not require formal procurement procedures, which simplifies and accelerates the process. Second, the construction solicitation may use a simpler “Invitation for Bid” (IFB) method, and requires only a cost proposal that is based solely on the design. In the end, while we will lose some time (probably less than three months), we still anticipate keeping to our project timeline of completion in the first quarter of 2018. While we had explored other legislative and legal remedies, helpful discussions with counsel, and with State Senator Adam Hinds and State Representative “Smitty” Pignatelli, have convinced us that the above approach is the most time efficient and cost effective.

Make-Ready Pole Work on the utility poles has begun, as you can see by the presence of trucks and workers from the pole owners, Verizon and National Grid. A number of new poles have already been put into place. We have no control over the pacing of the work, but we expect it to be complete by mid-year. The poles would then be ready to accept the fiber necessary to complete the network.

MBI Grant:  The Board has received written confirmation from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) that Alford has completed all the necessary steps to receive its share of the allocated State funds to assist unserved towns in completing broadband installation projects. The Town of Alford’s share will be approximately $288,000, to be applied to the cost of project construction. In addition, as press reports have indicated, MBI leadership has very recently changed its policy with the result that the full $40 million of allocated funds may be made available to the unserved towns in Massachusetts towards completion of fiber networks – not just the $22 million pool from which our allocation was derived. If this policy change is carried out, it would mean that Alford will likely also qualify for its share of the remaining $18 million, a very positive development.

 In the News:  The local press, particularly the Berkshire Eagle, has in recent months increased coverage of the problem of lack of adequate high-speed Internet access in Western Massachusetts. Alford’s progress was mentioned in one such article. While various models have been described in the press, the Alford MLP Board has charted a path that has been public, open to new and better ideas, and constantly re-evaluated to determine whether we should consider such other strategies. We continue to be convinced that the interests of our town are best advanced by the installation of our own, town-owned fiber optic network — a valuable asset that Alford alone controls, and one that will give Alford excellent service and flexibility as broadband development evolves. 

Alford MLP Website:

 Please look at our website (http://www.alfordmamlp.com) for information on the network build, to register to receive information, and to ask questions. All relevant documents will be posted there, as well as meeting minutes. We look forward to responding to your interest and inquiry.

 

Alford MLP Subscriber Newsletter,  19 January 2017

Dear Neighbor,

            You are receiving this email because you subscribed via the Alford Municipal Light Plant (MLP) website, http://www.alfordmamlp.com, to receive progress updates from the MLP toward achieving high speed internet for our town. Significant steps have been completed in the last few months and we are eager to share the latest information with all who are interested. In that spirit we encourage you to share this email with your neighbors and invite them to visit and subscribe to the website to receive future email notifications. The link to subscribe is: http://www.alfordmamlp.com/subscribe/. In this first mailing, we provide a short synopsis of the completed tasks, project plans and, more importantly, links to more detailed information.  So here we go: 

Based on numerous discussions with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI, http://broadband.masstech.org ) and drawing on experiences of other towns, the Alford MLP prepared detailed project plans for implementing fiber-optically based high-speed internet for the town of Alford. You can read the detail about these actions in the minutes on our website athttp://www.alfordmamlp.com/current-events/ . The following is a summary: 

Tasks that have been completed:

1.) Prepared the financial and legal framework with the Town Select Board, Town Counsel, Town Finance Committee, and MLP Special Counsel.

2.)   Secured low-interest funding through MA Statehouse Notes.

3.)   Pursued all possible avenues for obtaining grants from MBI and minimizing overall project costs to the Town.

4.)   Submitted pole license applications and completed requisite pole surveys with Verizon and National Grid.

5.)   Prepared a detailed requirements specification for the fiber optical network, published the “Design/Build” Request For Proposals (RFP) and received 6 bids for this first phase on December 21, 2016.

Nat Grid making poles ready for Alford's Fiber-optical Cable

Nat Grid making poles ready for Alford's Fiber-optical Cable

Tasks that are currently underway:

1.)   Evaluation of the Design/Build proposals is in progress and selection to be completed by February 2017.

2.)   Verizon and National Grid are currently preparing poles for fiber-optical cable installation (see photo). Completion estimates: March 2017 and May 2017, respectively.

3.)   The Alford MLP is preparing functional requirements for Network Operator (NO) & Internet Service Provider (ISP). 

 Tasks to be scheduled:

1.)   Publish NO/ISP Requests for Proposals and select provider(s)

2.)   Procure Fiber-optical Cable.

3.)   Procure & Install Equipment Hut for Network Electronics.

4.)   Install Fiber Optical Cable

5.)   Enlist subscriber base

6.)   Begin Residential Fiber Drop Access Agreements with subscribers

7.)   Engage Network Operator & ISP

8.)   System Integration & Commissioning 

No doubt the biggest question on everyone’s mind is: When will it be completed??   Because completion of the utilities’ “Make Ready” work is uncertain, it’s difficult to give a specific date. As soon as their work is complete and we get the go-ahead to install the fiber we will have a better estimate of a completion date.  At this time we can only estimate completion by early 2018. 

Links to more detailed information related to the Alford project and related activities: 

·      Alford Municipal Light Plant website: http://www.alfordmamlp.com

·      For new Subscribers who would like to receive future updates – go to the website,  select “CONTACT’, then “SUBSCRIBE,” or click here: http://www.alfordmamlp.com/subscribe/

·      To learn more about MLP Objectives and the MLP Board Members: http://www.alfordmamlp.com/the-board/

·      For more information about the Technology see FAQs: http://www.alfordmamlp.com/technical/

·      Find Recent News, Meeting Minutes and Early History under “HISTORY:” at the website: http://www.alfordmamlp.com

·      For Inquiries & Questions: http://www.alfordmamlp.com/contact/

 

Links to earlier Updates:

MBI Approves $1.9 Million in Last Mile Grants to Support Broadband Expansion in Alford, Otis, Warwick Tuesday, December 6, 2016

http://broadband.masstech.org/press-releases/mbi-approves-19-million-last-mile-grants-support-broadband-expansion-alford-otis

Alford Municipal Light Plant (MLP) Update, Nov. 11, 2016

https://www.dropbox.com/s/dwb4gqpx1bdjxlm/MLP%20Update%20Nov%2011%202016.docx?dl=0