City reaches truce with leading local Internet provider WP Council puts issue on hold, again-Rick Langenberg

WednesdayAugust620141407336922

Call it the “Magna Carta” of truces between a city government and a major local Internet provider, or a surprising improvement in negotiation efforts.

But unfortunately, the Woodland Park City Council wasn’t prepared to endorse the final agreement, and once again, delayed action on several new laws pertaining to how infrastructure work is handled on public streets and along the city’s rights-of-way that would have major impacts on expansion work planned by a local company. Much of this pertains to how city streets are dug up and how trenching and boring operations occur for communications and Internet pursuits that may affect the city’s streets and its infrastructure investment. Two council members, including Mayor Neil Levy, didn’t feel comfortable in moving forward on the issue, until it had a full panel. Councilman Phil Mella stated that the city has a lot at stake with these new laws.

Despite the delays, representatives from the city and Peak Internet, which has embarked on a major expansion program to provide super-fast, fiber-optic Internet services throughout the county, were seen visibly shaking hands following last week’s meeting. The latest delay won’t impact the expansion project of Peak Internet, according to Teri Scott, the head attorney for Peak Internet.

Also, Jayson Baker, owner of Peak Internet, lauded the effort by the city staff and the attorneys to come to the table and work out the details for a mutual agreement. He said he appreciated the hard work that was invested into the negotiations.

Unlike a previous meeting several weeks ago, the hearing didn’t feature any verbal fireworks. No public comment, though, was permitted.

The new agreement was announced in detail by city attorney Erin Smith. It mainly dealt with technical issues that gave Peak Internet a little more flexibility in meeting certain guidelines. This occurred, following a number of meetings between Smith and representatives of Peak Internet and even Park State Bank & Trust, which has helped to finance the Internet expansion pursuit.

For the most part, the changes would lessen the financial burden for Peak Internet to comply with the new rules. Peak Internet didn’t have any problems with the city’ request for new permit fees, but was bothered by the projected costs and probable delays associated with meeting these guidelines, especially after it initiated a major expansion project.

One issue, though, still under debate, dealt with a requirement for jail time, if certain violations occurred. This enforcement measure was proposed for violations that may result in major problems not corrected with work done on city streets, or activities that impacted its infrastructure..

The city council came to Peak’s rescue and said it didn’t want this penalty imposed.

“Jail time for this seems to be a little excessive,” said Levy. “I think it make more sense to get them in the pocket book,” said Mayor Pro Tem Carrol Harvey.

The city officials did this by enacting a fine of $2,650 per violation, if no correction action occurred.

Why the delays?
Even with a detailed explanation by Smith regarding the new changes and suggestions for new amendments and an agreement by city officials and Peak Internet operators, the council wasn’t comfortable with taking any final action.

“Do we feel that has enough teeth?” questioned Mella, in regards to the new rules. Throughout the hearing, he appeared uneasy about having to make a positive ruling on the new rules. Due to the fact that only four council members attended the hearing on the new Internet and telecommunications impact laws, they all would have been forced to vote yes on the requirements in order for them to move forward, based on rules stipulated in the city charter. The city charter stipulates that for a new ordinance to get approved, it requires a positive vote by four council members. That reality bothered Mella, who wanted to study the details more. He also gained an ally in the mayor. “I am not comfortable with a decision,” said Levy.

But both Harvey and Councilman Bob Carlsen were prepared to endorse the proposed regulations. Smith also proposed taking positive action. “There is nothing secretive about this,” said the city attorney.

But with the prospects of a unanimous agreement in doubt, the issue was postponed until Nov. 5.

At that time, the council hopes to have a full panel. However, one of the council members, Ken Matthews, can’t vote on the issue due to a conflict of interest.