McCain Foods wants above-ground fiber internet link

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OTHELLO — The Othello City Council is considering a request from McCain Foods to allow the company to run an overhead fiber optic cable to connect to the internet, rather than going underground as current city ordinance requires.

“We don’t have fiber now,” said John Lallas, a member of the city council who spoke as a private citizen on behalf of McCain. “We use a phone line system for the Internet. Fiber is much faster.”

Lallas said an earlier request from McCain to string the line about 1,200 feet from an above ground fiber optic junction box to McCain’s administrative office had been rejected by City Administrator Wade Farris. He also told the city council McCain believes it has a right-of-way to string the line, and the company does not want to come back to the city and seek a variance from the current ordinance if it doesn’t have to.

“We don’t want to dig on Broadway; that would be detrimental to the city and to McCain,” Lallas said.

While Mayor Shawn Logan said Othello needs a fiber optic network, it is currently too expensive to put cable underground for existing development as the law demands. The city has already made allowances in three cases for individuals or companies who wanted to install overhead fiber optic cable, Logan said.

“If we’re not going to enforce this, we need to change the code,” the mayor said. “Why don’t we consider changing our ordinance? You need to be consistent. Consistency is what’s called fairness.”

However, Council Member Corey Everett said the ordinance requiring underground fiber optic cables was enacted for a reason.

“The ordinance was established to get rid of overhead lines in town, but we’re adding to it,” he said. “They’re not maintained, they get full of rats nests, droop and fall.”

Following the advice of City Attorney Roger Reed, Logan said the council would review the ordinance and deal with the matter at the next council meeting on Dec. 4, when the council is also set to approve the city’s 2018 budget.

“We will come back and decide next Monday,” he said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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