Mainstream readies Milltown for broadband expansion
Chris Adams, Contributing Writer
Zach Stephens of Mainstream Fiber Networks told those at the Milltown Town Council meeting on Oct. 12 the area will be the first to benefit from Crawford County receiving a $3.06 million Next Level grant from the State of Indiana to bring broadband internet to the county. However, because of permitting and other work still needed to be done, the first customers won’t be online until almost a year from now.
“There’s been a little bit of confusion about how quickly we’re going to be able to deploy that and be able to provide services to homes,” Stephens said.
That’s likely because Mainstream, which has had a presence in neighboring Harrison County for years, previously did work on the Crawford County side of town in an attempt to bring service there.
“When we first tried to expand into Crawford County, we did add some infrastructure, some new poles and ran fiber to where there’s a middle-mile connector, somebody else that could give us access to the internet world to be able to feed our network in Harrison County,” he said. “So, when everybody heard that we got the grant, everybody in Milltown was like, ‘Great, fiber’s here. You guys already have infrastructure. Are you hooking me up tomorrow?’ ”
Stephens said that before that can happen, Mainstream needs an executed contract from the state, which it expects to receive in November.
According to the grant program, Mainstream then will have two years to build out its network. However, before physical work can begin, Mainstream must complete final engineering and permitting, a process that will take six or seven months, Stephens said.
Once permits are secured and “we actually start construction, we’d be looking at about Q2 of 2021 for us to actually be breaking ground and starting to deploy, whether that be poles or conduit underground for our fiber,” he said.
Once Mainstream gets an opportunity to start building and getting its “network going, we would still be looking at not having probably our first customers until Q3 of 2021,” Stephens said.
“But, again, what that is, is I want everybody to also understand this is a $5.7 million infrastructure project partially funded by the state that is going to cover almost the entire county,” he said.
The project calls for Mainstream to lay 80 miles of new fiber infrastructure in Crawford County. However, that’s just the first step, Stephens said, explaining Mainstream will expand off of that initial build for years to come, providing broadband internet access to even more residences and businesses in the county.
In another matter, Bob Woosley of Heritage Engineering said the new wastewater treatment plant project would begin Oct. 15 with a pre-construction meeting with contractor Mitchell and Stark Construction.
“We’ll get the ball rolling at that time,” he said. “I don’t know what day they’re actually going to be there to actually start construction, but they’ll have that on their schedule.”
Woosley said Mitchell and Stark Construction, with the lowest received construction bid of $1,589,000, will have 270 days to complete the project.
“I don’t anticipate it’s going to take anywhere near that time, but per their contract they have that,” he said, noting that would put the completion date at no later than July 10, 2021.
Woosley said there will be no interruption in wastewater treatment service as the existing plant will remain operational during construction of the new plant.
Following up from the September month’s regular meeting when a Cave Country Canoes official approached the council about purchasing the old railroad grade from the town, the business’ longtime owner, Gordon Smith, expressed assurance that he would be a good steward of that part of the town’s history.
“You can certainly judge from what I’ve done in Milltown over that past 40 years we certainly respect anything historical,” Smith said. “We try to do everything in a first-class manner.
“The railroad grade, we certainly are not going to bulldoze it out of there or anything. We’re going to leave it there,” he said. “Part of the advantage is the top of the railroad grade is out of the flood plain, so you can do things on top of the railroad grade that you can’t do at grade level in town.”
Smith said he doesn’t have a specific plan for the property.
“There’s several uses for it — cabins, more camping, what have you — but whatever we do will be first class and we will maintain the railroad grade as it is. There’s no reason for us to get rid of it,” he said.
Smith said since the previous month’s meeting, the daughter of Paul Harp, former owner of a portion of the property, contacted Cave Country Canoes to say that the business already owns the property. She said her father, who sold Blue River Marina to Smith in the 1980s, and another land owner, Jack Carr, had filed quick-claim deeds on their properties in the 1960s or 1970s.
“I’m not here to not pay for it, but, on the other hand, we’d obviously have to check into it to see whether there was a quick-claim deed,” Smith said.
Sherri Nail, guest services manager for Cave Country Canoes, said the Crawford County Recorder’s office was able to locate the quick-claim deed filed by Carr but hasn’t found the one filed by Harp. She added the initial paperwork found still lists Southern Railroad as the owner of the property.
Councilman Justin Barnes said it is his belief that when the railroad abandoned the property, if the original property owner didn’t want it, the property was deeded to the town.
At the instruction of Jerry Mackey, president of the council, town attorney David Hutson is to research the deeds at the county judicial complex.
Julie Moorman, president and CEO of the Harrison County Community Foundation, also addressed the council, notifying it of a four-year implementation grant awarded by Lilly Endowment Inc. that will benefit Milltown.
The grant follows a planning grant involving Harrison County’s incorporated towns, Moorman said. One of the things learned during that process was the towns could use more support with planning, she said.
“Our hope is that we can provide some resources to update your comprehensive plan, your asset management plan. Some towns have those; some towns don’t. Some towns have them, but it’s old and needs to be updated,” Moorman said. “So, not only that money from Lilly Endowment, but also funding from the Foundation will help to cover that.”
She added the Foundation hopes these plans will help towns leverage more outside funding for various projects while also being incorporated into a new Harrison County comprehensive plan.
In other business, the council:
Approved, 3-0, an agreement with Baker Tilly for wastewater rate consulting services.
Announced that it would consider adoption of the town’s 2021 budget adoption at a special meeting Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the town hall.
Voted 3-0 to approve an updated ordinance to prohibit owners from allowing their animals to run at-large. The previous ordinance didn’t cover all types of animals, whereas this one does. Since the updated ordinance does not change penalties, only one approved reading was needed for it to take effect.
Approved, 3-0, paying a $50 membership fee to join the Indiana Landmarks Association. Being a member of the ILA allows the town to have its historical buildings, including the town hall, assessed by architectural firms at no cost.
Were informed by town manager Josh Breeding that a new “Milltown Town Hall” vinyl logo for the town hall’s front window has been ordered. It will replace the faded painted logo currently on the window.
Was asked by Barnes about moving the start of the council’s meetings from 6:30 to 7 p.m. as they had been for years in order to make it easier for people to attend after work. Mackey and Jeanie Melton were favorable, but the council decided to wait to make the change in January.
The council’s next meeting is set for Monday at 6:30 p.m.