Slow and Steady – Community Broadband Planning Continues

Spring just might be around the corner in Cook County.  It snows one day and shines the next, with temperatures into the 30’s and 40’s.  In either case, it’s a sign that soon the snow will be gone and construction of our community broadband network may begin.  The weather over the coming weeks will have a definite impact as to when construction can start.  Unfortunately, weather isn’t the only thing that could impact our construction start.

As we scrutinized our mortgage with the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) an error was found that needs correcting prior to recording.  Subsequently, our documents are in the hands of a RUS attorney.  Until the documents are corrected by RUS and executed, we are unable to draw loan or grant funds.  Once a release of funds has been authorized by RUS Arrowhead Electric Cooperative can begin to draw on our award funding.  With each request, RUS provides funds in the form of a 70% grant and a 30% loan.  Using this process your cooperative is able to delay the payment of interest on the loan until work (construction) begins. 

A second hurdle pressuring the project is that of environmental and cultural preservation.  We have been working for months trying to obtain all necessary authorizations to move forward.  At this time, the most pressing approval needed is that of the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).  The SHPO however, can not approve the project until they receive a recommendation from RUS.  RUS can not submit a recommendation until it receives recommendation from the Superior National Forest.  Thankfully, we’ve recently, (as of March 10) received a positive recommendation from the Forest Service that will allow RUS to begin work with the SHPO.

The importance of receiving all environmental and cultural approvals in a timely manner cannot be overstated.  The general construction contract that is being assembled this week and next can not be submitted to RUS for approval until we have all environmental and cultural approvals.  We expect a construction contract to take approximately 60 days for RUS to approve.  As you can begin to see, June 1 will come all to soon considering all that needs to be accomplished to begin construction on schedule.

Over the past month nearly every call, letter, or person stopping into our office has asked nearly the same question, “When will service be available at my property?”  Nothing could prove to be more disappointing to Arrowhead Electric than having to delay the start of your community broadband project if environmental and cultural approvals are not obtained soon.

Mitigating financial risk, providing quality services, and meeting the demands of our member-owners are being managed for the long term success of our community broadband network. Informed decision making today will ensure the success of not only our community broadband network, but for all of Cook County.

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