Local

McHenry County mulls $2.11M network project to install fiber-optic line

Fiber-optic line would be installed along Route 14

WOODSTOCK – Numerous governmental bodies throughout the Woodstock area would tap into and manage a robust, high-speed communication network, under a $2.11 million construction project that officials say upgrades McHenry County’s technological infrastructure.

The proposed project would install fiber-optic cables along Route 14, starting from McHenry County College and carrying throughout Woodstock city limits.

Officials from Woodstock, District 200, MCC, the county and its emergency telephone system board could all connect to the fiber-optic line, allowing them to save costs, interconnect and share data and files faster, both Woodstock and county officials said.

Each group also would appoint a representative to a new board that would oversee and manage the high-speed network.

Woodstock and county officials believe the project’s value could also lead to future economic development opportunities, where the five-member board partners with a private company to lease untapped fiber-optic lines to businesses throughout the Woodstock area.

“It’s an exponential expansion of capacity,” County Administrator Peter Austin said. “More and more, we are pushing data all over our lives. ... We are able to provide more Internet capacity at similar costs.”

Woodstock City Council members recently committed to the project, unanimously approving an agreement between the four other groups to create the fiber-optic network.

The District 200 Board scheduled a vote on the proposal for its Tuesday meeting. The McHenry County Board also is set to take a final vote on the agreement during its Nov. 6 meeting, Austin said.

If the project is approved, Chicago-based Globetrotters Engineering Corp. would install the $2.11 million fiber-optic network. The connection could be active by next summer, Austin said.

Once Woodstock connects, city officials would start to see immediate savings since the new connection would allow them to eliminate slower connections and radio circuits currently provided by Comcast and other vendors, City Manager Roscoe Stelford said.

The city estimated it could save about $13,448 annually on Internet-related costs, although officials still would help manage the new network. The city’s projected operational costs for it total $33,784 a year, according to city documents.

But a more reliable, faster network greatly outweighs the cost savings, Stelford said. The potential economic development opportunities, allowing area businesses to buy and use the new network, alone makes the project significant, he said.

“Having that high-tech infrastructure in the City of Woodstock is going to be another feather in our cap for us to secure economic development opportunities,” Stelford said.

All five local governments in the proposed network would share the $2.11 million construction costs.

On paper, District 200 will contribute the most, responsible for $806,526 of the total cost.

The county would pay $760,526. Woodstock would contribute $386,624, while the 9-1-1 board and MCC would pay $105,800 and $54,423, respectively.

But under the proposed agreement, both the county and city would cover District 200’s construction portion upfront. The district has agreed to pay back both groups in installments during the next four years.

Before voting for the agreement last week, Woodstock council member Mike Turner said he found it “mildly annoying” as a city taxpayer that District 200, which has a larger budget than Woodstock, would ask the city for financial help.

District spokeswoman Carol Smith said school officials were apprehensive about the project costs since numerous proposed bills in Springfield create financial unknowns for the district.

Among them, a bill that would change the school state aid formula dissuaded the district from a large, upfront commitment to the fiber-optic network, she said.

The district still sees benefits to the new network. The majority of its schools would connect to the fiber-optic lines, under the agreement.

“The long-term gain and benefit to our students and staff members is increased bandwidth, which is necessary for current and future technology needs in the classroom,” Smith said.

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