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.
Three candidates are hoping to bring an end to the Republican-dominated Delta County Board of County Commissioners. Two are Democrats who call themselves men of ideas; the third is an independent candidate who says he's frustrated by the "status quo."