The Town of Paonia is considering placing a broadband initiative on this November's general election ballot.
Senate Bill 152, passed in 2005, requires local governments wishing to engage in providing such services to bring a referendum before voters. "It is really about creating an open, competitive environment for broadband providers," said town manager Jane Berry.
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs announced in January that it has earmarked $20 million in Energy Impact Assistance grant funds "to assist in local government efforts" in working with communities and partnering with the private sector to create broadband infrastructure. DOLA states that grants are directed toward smaller and rural communities "economically or socially impacted by the development of energy and mineral resources."
Berry estimates that the initiative will cost taxpayers $2,300. The town doesn't have the money, said Berry, and DOLA has indicated it will work with the town in seeking funding sources.
The town has until Aug. 27 to adopt ballot language and submit it to Delta County. Berry told trustees that to meet the deadline they can expect the issue to come up at the Aug. 11 and Aug. 25 board meetings.
The clock is ticking. The Delta Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) has 120 days to reach agreement with the taxing entities it's asking to help fund a gateway project near the intersection of Highways 50 and 92. Half that time has elapsed, and there is no Plan B, city manager David Torgler emphasized during a meeting with taxing entities Monday.