My Turn: The PUD’s highway to disaster | SierraSun.com

My Turn: The PUD’s highway to disaster

Jim Smith

I watched with anticipation the Truckee Donner Public Utility meeting on March 29. I was hoping to garner some sense of what plans had been made, where funding was coming from and at what stage the proposed high-speed technology plans were.

I was surprised and confused by what seemed to be a pointless and confusing “informational” meeting. It started off with a caveat by the board president indicating that because Cebridge Communications had the day before exercised their right to appeal a lower court ruling handed down a few months ago in a case involving the PUD, the meeting had the potential to be disjointed.

Wow, that was the most insightful comment of the evening.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not a fan of the PUD. As a resident of Glenshire, I’m still upset that my homeowner’s association and the PUD convinced Glenshire homeowners that our infrastructure needed upgrading and that the $3 million price could increase our monthly water bills to an outrageous $35 to $36 per month from the then $25 per month. Based on the red flags thrown up by the two organizations, homeowners sold their water company and its parts to the PUD.

That was three years ago. I now pay close to $60 per month for my water and I’m anticipating my bill will go higher.

Thanks PUD. But I digress.

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With the exception of one member, the PUD board Wednesday showed they’re not concerned with any obstacle and will push their agenda forward to create another bureaucracy to suckle at the teat of the community.

On http://www.tdpud.org, the PUD states it would like to provide fiber-optic cable to the user and has already authorized seeking funding for the project. However, it seems this board is happy with just the fiber optics.

It seems there’s been more and more discussion about becoming competitors in a changing market by considering offering its own cable, Internet and telephone service. What’s more apparent from Wednesday’s meeting is the board cannot agree what they’ve agreed to build yet: “just the highway,” because, according to one board member, the PUD’s expertise lies in “installing, maintaining and updating infrastructure;” or, a massive computer cable and telephone conglomerate; or something in the middle.

What’s clear is the board has no idea of how much money they’ve spent, how much more it will take to complete the project, where they’ll get financing or what the end product will be.

They do agree, however, that they want to spend yet more money on yet another survey to see what the community would like. Apparently there’s a disagreement on the board as to whether the existing surveys were skewed to reflect certain opinions.

In a show of total disregard for the public, the board indicated they were considering going forward with their “plan,” and were considering indemnifying prospective lenders against a potential Cebridge victory in the appeal. In essence, agreeing to increase the interest rate of any financing they might acquire.

Undaunted, the board seeks to move ahead even though it appears there is current information available indicating other communities haven’t fared as well as that which the board took comment from in a conference call during Wednesday’s meeting.

More on that later. One community member sought to provide copies of studies pointing out the pitfalls and negative aspects of the board’s proposed “highway.” The board’s response to the presenter wasn’t whether the facts of the studies were correct, but just that one of the reports was created by a cable industry think tank.

The telephone conference speaker represented a town in Tennessee. He said his town spent $53 million on its high speed system. There was a slide show that coincided with his presentation. Tellingly, the presentation revealed that to supply cable, Internet and telephone, the “Triple Play,” the town had installed 650 miles of cable, hung one large box on a telephone pole for each group of 80 customers served and an additional two devices ” each about the size of your current cable or telephone box ” and another signaling device on the electric meter of each home.

Additionally, the gentleman from Tennessee indicated that in the end, his town wasn’t able to provide the least expensive alternative to cable, Internet and telephone service.

Yes, it’d be nice to have faster Internet service, clearer TV reception and the most-up-to-date telephone communication available, but come on folks, we’re a small town. Is it really worth the risk? Can we afford what might amount to a $50 million folly?

Finally, a Cebridge representative indicated at the meeting that his company was willing to discuss any joint venture to help achieve the PUD’s goals. Showing a complete lack of understanding of the board’s fiduciary responsibility to ensure that whatever money is spent is in the community’s best interest, the board president as much as said he wasn’t interested in working with Cebridge.

My opinion: When a body has no direction, doesn’t know where it is, how to get where it’s going or even where it wants to go, and after investing serious time and money isn’t willing to consider cooperative plans or openly discuss reports that have been brought before it, that body is on a highway to disaster, not destined for the Internet highway.