Redevelopment Commission has tapped a Hebron DSL and broadband provider to
design a fiber optic network intended to make the town the preferred
destination in Northwest Indiana not only of established firms looking to
expand or re-locate but of innovative start-ups and other intellectual
At a special
meeting Monday night, members voted unanimously to award the design contract
to Nitco. Contract price: $124,275.
The commission had
previously shortlisted Nitco and a second firm. Both companies are “high
quality,” Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann said. “Both are fully capable of doing
the job.” Nitco’s proposal, however, was priced approximately $36,000 less
than the other firm’s.
Among other things,
Nitco’s brief includes mapping the fiber-optic network’s route--consisting
of an estimated 10 to 10.5 miles of conduit--finding a site for a
bricks-and-mortar data center for the management of the network, and
preparing both the construction drawings and the technical specifications.
Nitco should have a
completed design in hand by June 15, Lukmann said, at which time the town
will go out to bid for a construction contractor. By then too John Nekus of
Monroe Street Group, who prepared the initial RFI to which Nitco responded,
should have finished specifications for the actual network operator,
responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the infrastructure and for
customer billing and marketing.
After the meeting
Nekus told the Chesterton Tribune that, conceivably, ground could be
broken on the network by the middle of September, with installation
completed early in 2017. The construction process is likely to be minimally
invasive, Nekus said, with little actual excavation, as most of the
four-inch conduit can probably be installed in the right-of-way by means of
directional-boring. Conduit has already been installed south of the Indiana
Toll Road, as part of the Ind. 49 corridor project.
The town will own
both the conduit and the fiber optic line, Nekus added. “That will allow the
town to maintain network neutrality and to grow a revenue stream that will
make the network self-sufficient.” Those revenues, in turn, will be split
with the future operator under the terms of a profit-sharing agreement.
networks, Nekus has said, are rapidly becoming a 21st-century
“infrastructure imperative” as important to a community as access to clean
water, natural-gas and electric service, and sewer treatment facilities. And
the commission is hopeful that Chesterton’s own fiber-optic network will
prove a huge economic-development boon. And more than that, an educational
one too, under a proposal to provide the Duneland Schools with access to it.
“This will put
Chesterton in the position of being on the cutting edge,” Member Jim Ton
Lukmann took a
moment at the end of the meeting to report on the bond refunding which the
commission put into motion early in January. The results, he said, have been
little short of spectacular.
The intention had
been, by refunding the 2009 bond issue used to finance the South Calumet
Business District, to save something on the order of $200,000 in interest
payments over the remaining 14 years of the bonds’ lifetime.
In fact, the
refunded bonds’ net interest rate was cut nearly in half, from 4.7 percent
to 2.4 percent, for a cumulative savings of $402,000. “We hoped to hit a
sweet spot in the interest rate,” Lukmann said. “Well, we blew it away.”
Lukmann added that
the refund’s underwriter, PiperJaffray, the bond counsel, Barnes & Thornburg
LLP, and the town’s contracted financial consultant, London Witte Group, all
did a superb job in shepherding the refund to such a successful conclusion.