Dark fiber loop in Clay’s future?

Debra W. Buehn
Posted 11/15/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – From high-tech communication ideas to “low-tech” loving animals, the Board of Clay County Commissioners took a look at proposals for the upcoming Capital Improvement Plan …

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Dark fiber loop in Clay’s future?


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – From high-tech communication ideas to “low-tech” loving animals, the Board of Clay County Commissioners took a look at proposals for the upcoming Capital Improvement Plan for the coming years at a workshop held Nov. 13.

While the CIP is generally reviewed every 5-years, the county, which is trying to look at a bigger picture with more vision geared to the future, also included ideas and situations that could come up in the next 10 years.

The BCC heard from a number of county officials and department heads who made their cases for what they believe will make their areas of expertise run better and more efficiently and help the county and its residents.

“This is a starting point,” said Stephanie Kopelousos, county manager, explaining that staff had put together a list of what members have seen and heard are the wants of the community, and what the community might need to best function. The request from staff to the BCC is for direction on what additional information it needs to make decisions and what becomes a priority so funding can be divided up properly and maximized.

Among items discussed was the idea of a dark fiber loop, something that helps provide top-level, high-speed internet.

Troy Nagle, director of Management Information Services for the county, presented the information to the BCC, saying, among other things, it could be important to economic development.

A dark fiber loop involves an entity – such as the county – purchasing fibers used for high-speed internet and the like, laying the fibers underground and then using them for the county, its residents and its businesses. Such a project could either be done by the county alone, which would then rent out whatever fiber it did not use, essentially making it its own utility, or in a partnership, such as a public-private partnership. Either way, the money spent is essentially recouped by renting out what fiber is not used by the county.

The idea appears to have support from the BCC.

BCC Vice Chair Diane Hutchings said she has studied the idea for a long time, and believes it is the way to go.

“I frankly see no downside,” she said. “Economic development-wise, it puts you in the game for companies that need that dependable high-speed fiber. We just need a plan.”

Hutchings said she believes a public-private partnership is probably the way to go.

BCC Chairman Wayne Bolla also backed the idea of dark fiber.

“That is probably the single most – other than getting the school district to Number One for industrial development – (thing) I’ve seen fly through here. If we could get world-class internet back in this county so that IT outfits would want to come here, that would be something really positive we could all do without spending a ton of money.”

But Bolla also said he also wanted to make sure the project resulted in getting access to the rural areas.

“So, I would prefer to see the model more like we run it and we can tell them where to go with it,” he said.

For Commissioner Gavin Rollins, the idea of getting to rural areas is also important. Rollins lives in Keystone Heights and has often had trouble with internet service and related technology.

“There’re some points that are rough. There’s just very little connectivity,” Rollins said.

Commissioner Mike Cella, who said “in theory” he was for the whole idea, also preferred the concept of the county having control, had another suggestion of hiring a company to run things and have them take their percentage, as opposed to the county just going in as a partner with someone.

Commissioner Gayward Hendry could not attend the meeting.

On a somewhat different note, the commission also heard from Christina Sutherin, Animal Services Division director. Sutherin spoke about the needs and plans for a new facility for animals in need of help in Clay County.

Sutherin said she knew it was probably “not a surprise” that Animal Services was hoping to build a new facility that would serve the county better than the one now on State Road 16 near Penney Farms.

The idea and how to best implement it has been discussed for quite some time for the aging facility that was flooded during Hurricane Irma.

“We are maxed out, it seems, all of the time,” she said.

A growing county population brings a growing animal population. Some 4,000 animals on their own are served per year,” she said.

The current facility is about 13,700 square feet. It lies on 6.8 acres, 2.5 acres of which is being used. The rest is wetlands, Sutherin said.

Animal Services – formally known as Animal Care and Control – would like to see about a 20,000-25,000 square foot facility, which would house about 38 dog kennels as opposed to the current 12 animals, she said. It would also include space for cats, meeting areas, an expanded medical area and offices.

The new facility is proposed, along with a new health department building, to be on some 40 acres of land that is county-owned and located along County Road 220 just behind the Black Creek Park and Ride.

“We’re not trying to build the Taj Mahal,” said Stephanie Kopelousos, county manager.

Sutherin said the proposal is to look at plans in the next year that would give them the most “flow and functionality.” That would call for about $500,000 for architectural drawings and design work.

Animal Services is looking at a variety of places that already have proven designs, such as University of California at Davis, University of Wisconsin, University of Florida and Maddie’s Fund.

Grants would also be sought to help with funding for that portion of the project. Having been under 10 percent euthanasia for years should help that effort, she said.

About $7 million would be sought during 2020-2021 to construct the new facility, she said.

Numerous other items were discussed including streamlining via software the library’s check-in and check-out system so librarians could be freed up to work more with readers and library users, fire equipment and facilities and using something called “chip asphalt” for paving low-use residential roads, including dirt roads.

Kopelousos said staff would bring back a list of priorities for further discussion at the Dec. 12 BCC meeting.


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