Yampa Valley Electric gets OK to start broadband work in Craig

Yampa Valley Electric Association's subsidiary Luminate plans to start construction of fiber internet infrastructure on city-owned easements.
Clay Thorp/courtesy photo

Craig’s long-sought, high-speed broadband network will begin construction soon after an agreement was signed during the April 9 city council meeting.

In one of his last official acts as mayor following his loss to current Councilman Jarrod Ogden, John Ponikvar signed an agreement with Yampa Valley Electric Association’s new broadband subsidiary, Luminate, to allow YVEA to construct their network — portions of which will be built on certain city-owned right-of-ways.

“A lot of the easements are in the right-of ways are already in the streets,” said City Attorney Sherman Romney. “Their people, we’ll work closely with them and make sure they have they ability to use the existing easements that are there in the existing right-of-ways as much as possible. We also might want them to come present to us sometime. Their engineers should be done in the next month or two. I think we’ll have them come in and talk to us some more.”

Councilwoman Andrea Camp asked Romney if Colorado Department of Transportation construction on East Victory Way would affect YVEA operating on city-owned easements in the area. Romney said if CDOT or its construction contractor damage YVEA’s broadband infrastructure, there are mechanism to hold that contractor accountable.

“That’s definitely something we’re going to be watching,” Romney said.

Councilman Chris Nichols also asked whether there would be any private property agreements as part of YVEA’s broadband plans. Romney said there would be, but the city won’t be involved in any private agreements.

“They’ll be working on the private property agreements as well in dealing with those private property owners,” Romney said. “We own of course the streets and right of ways, so we’ll be heavily involved in that process. But I don’t know how much private property and additional easements they’ll have to obtain. I think they’re finalizing those plans right now.”

According to a map provided to council by YVEA, broadband fiber infrastructure will be installed in a loop around the city — generally beginning near the Yampa River and up to encompass much of the area immediately north of Craig past the Sandrocks.

“If you have concerns, we can spend a little more time working on this,” Romney told council before they voted to approve the agreement with YVEA. “I think they’re concerned about our land that we own that we’re providing easements across. Obviously, they’ll have to deal with any private property interests along the way.”

Councilwoman Andrea Camp motioned to approve the agreement and Councilman Tony Bohrer seconded before unanimous passage.

According to the agreement, YVEA’s access to easements on city property is perpetual.

Ponikvar said his work on the broadband initiative has been ongoing for years.

“I will just say that for the two years I’ve been mayor, this is one of the things we’ve been working on hard,” Ponikvar said. “This is one of the most important infrastructure needs we’ve had in our community.”

Ponikvar gave much of the credit to Michelle Perry and the recently disbanded Craig Moffat Economic Development Partnership for broadband coming to Craig.

“They’re disbanded now, but this wouldn’t have come about without their work,” Ponikvar said. “That’s just the way it is.”

Ponikvar said, when complete, the new internet infrastructure will help bring Craig up to par with the rest of the state in today’s digital age.

“In the end, we’re gonna have a high-speed, abundant, redundant fiber network,” Ponikvar said. “We’re going to join the 21st century. If I’ve done anything as mayor, I’m proud to sign this right here because it’s huge for our community.”

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