(Jan. 11, 2019) One small step for man, one giant leap in communications for Worcester County?

After much debate, the Worcester County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a motion to collect bid requests for a broadband feasibility study.

The county commissioners approved hiring a broadband consultant for $30,000 at a Nov. 7, 2018 meeting, and with that done, IT Manager Brian Jones asked the commissioners to proceed with getting bids for the study.

Commissioner Jim Bunting opposed the proposal, instead suggesting investigating other broadband options and recommendations. 

“I’m not going to vote to approve it,” Bunting said. 

Bunting cited high costs as one of his main concerns with the initiative.

“It’s going to cost the county a lot of money,” Bunting said. “We’re going to have to make a decision whether we’re going to spend that money.”

Jones emphasized the need to get numbers via a study in order to secure a successful jumping off point for the county.

“We can come up with all kinds of ideas … but doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to do it correctly,” Jones said. “That’s the whole reason for the feasibility study… before we can start to build it, we’ve got to understand what our needs are.”

Commissioner Joshua Nordstrom also acknowledged the expense and asked Jones if the consultant would be present for the entire process.

“I think it’s necessary, but if we’re going to have this expenditure, I want to makes sure we’re getting our money’s worth out of it, and I don’t want someone to come in and just drop some things on the table and just say here’s your options, look them over, we’ll see you later,” Nordstrom said. “I want someone who is there to answer questions.”

Jones said gauging the county’s need is critical to the process.

“Before we get started on anything, we really want to see what’s available to us,” Jones said. “Where we’re located on the Eastern shore … we have a lot of limitations.”

But until the county gets an education and obtains figures for broadband, the outcome would be unclear, Jones said.

“We’re going to have issues,” Jones said. “We don’t know enough about it to know what our problems are going to be until we hit them.”

But Jones said this initial fee is just a jumping off point, and the county could be “looking at starting at $5 million, just to start.” He clarified this step is needed because “we have to start somewhere.”

Commissioner Bud Church said the investment is worth it.

“It’s just a drop in the bucket to do it right the first time, and I speak in favor of the motion,” Church said. “It’s something that we need to do.”

Church made the motion to approve the request, which was seconded by Commissioner Chip Bertino. The vote was 5-1 in favor of the bid requests, with Bunting opposed.

Proposals will be opened at 1 p.m. on Feb. 11. Anyone with questions should contact Brian Jones at bjones@worcester., or send an inquiry in writing to the Worcester County Department of Information Technology, Attn: Brian Jones, at the aforementioned address. 

Commissioner Joseph Mitrecic was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

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