CHESTERFIELD — Due to a procedural glitch, residents will convene at town hall Saturday for a vote on whether to authorize selectmen to pursue a bond voters approved at town meeting in March.
The $1.8 million bond, which passed 205-35 by ballot vote, would support the installation of fiber-optic Internet service to every home in town. It would be guaranteed over 20 years by Consolidated Communications, which would provide an additional $2.5 million in funding for the project.
The principal and interest on the bond would be paid for through an up-to-$10 monthly infrastructure fee added to subscribers’ monthly service charges, incurring no impact on the tax rate, officials said at an informational meeting in January.
According to Alyssa Thompson, Chesterfield’s town administrator, Saturday’s special town meeting is necessary because notice of one of the public hearings for the broadband proposal appeared in the newspaper six days before the hearing rather than seven days before, as required by law. The town discovered the error in the course of filing paperwork for the approved bond, she said.
Jon McKeon, chairman of the board of selectmen, said the town is required by the N.H. Municipal Bond Bank to “cure” the error with a special meeting. He noted that voters will not be weighing in on the bond itself, but rather on the selectmen’s decision to pursue the project following the public hearings.
The article requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
In the unlikely event that the vote does not pass, the board could simply call for another, he said, and could potentially use a different bonding service for the project should the measure fail again.
“We don’t feel that there will be an issue, but you never know,” he said.
McKeon said that both parties — Consolidated Communications and the board — have agreed on a contract, which they intend to sign after the vote. Consolidated Communications hopes to start work as soon as possible, he said.
At January’s informational meeting, officials said the project would take between 12 and 24 months to complete, with service implemented on a rolling basis. Service would be offered at prices ranging from $49.99 per month to $199.99 per month, depending on speed and length of commitment.
The project is possible through Senate Bill 170, legislation Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law in June that allows municipal governments to issue bonds for building broadband infrastructure in areas not served by a commercial provider.
The bill, sponsored by N.H. Sen. Jay V. Kahn and Rep. John Bordenet, both Keene Democrats, paves the way for public-private partnerships to expand broadband infrastructure in rural areas such as the Monadnock Region.
The special town meeting is set for Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Chesterfield Town Hall and is scheduled to last for an hour.