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Chesterville board tables broadband funding request

CHESTERVILLE — Selectmen last Thursday tabled a request for funding to support a plan for broadband services in Franklin County. Earlier this year, the board wrote a letter of support for a planning grant to improve access to high-speed internet service in greater Franklin County. Charlie Woodworth, a representative of the Opportunity Center of North Franklin County, said the $43,000 ConnectMe grant had been approved. Franklin County commissioners have agreed to provide $58,000 from the Kibby Mountain wind farm tax-increment financing fund, contingent upon town participation. He said $20,000 still has to be raised.

Livermore Falls and 17 towns and four plantations in Franklin County are being asked to pay $20.25 per mile of road to cover the plan’s total budget of $121,000. With 45.03 miles, Chesterville’s amount is $911.86, Woodworth said. Board of Selectmen Vice Chairwoman Tiffany Estabrook said, “We have a citizen who has taken the initiative (and) is doing this for free. We now have Spectrum, FairPoint and GWI competing for Chesterville.”

Resident Roger Whitehouse has been researching broadband options and circulating a petition to determine how many residents want faster internet. He supported the funding request.

“(Woodworth’s) proposal would be on a much greater level than I’m doing,” Whitehouse said. “The first step to bettering residents’ lives is to have a plan in place.”

Selectman Ross Clair said, “A FairPoint repairman told me everybody’s scrambling; the wheel is turning.”

Whitehouse said 220 people signed his petition and are interested in better internet service. FairPoint representatives want to hold a public hearing in early September, he said.

“Let the people speak,” Clair said. “Emphasize it’s not just FairPoint. If we have public input, its easier to address the request.”

Resident Kathy Gregory asked whether any town had considered a citizen initiative to fund the remaining amount.

“If 45 residents are willing to give $20, that’s another way to see if citizens are interested,” Gregory said. In other business, the board tabled a request to begin meetings later.

Town Clerk Pamela Griswold said starting meetings later would allow her to attend. The Town Office is open until 7 p.m. Thursday and she often has to assist customers.

“It would help with communication,” Griswold said. “I can read the minutes, but may read something differently than was meant. There are nuances that have been lost by not being able to attend.”

Selectman Edward Hastings IV said the board had just moved to hold meetings twice a month with a review planned after 90 days.

“Let’s digest this first, see how it works,” Hastings said. “We can talk about it then.”

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