Mary Jan Headman, Executive Director of the South Bend Metronet (Zing) gave a brief overview of the operations. The Metronet was launched 9 years ago and is currently serving 150 businesses, organizations, industries, and governmental agencies in Saint Joseph County. She discussed the “dark fiber” and explained that each subscriber controls the bandwidth the want and need. The Metronet does not sell any services; private carries in the Carrier Hotel at Union Station in South Bend provide the services. With a number of providers available there is increased competition keeping costs down.
Brent Martin presented a budget summary for the project that is three integral parts; the installation of fiber from South Bend to Plymouth and around the city, the county conduit and the city conduit. The installation of fiber in the conduit will all be paid by private investment with Hoosier Tire and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center paying $325,000 each and the St. Joe Valley Metronet paying $270,000 for a total cost of $920,000.
The City’s conduit will require the installation of conduit from the northern edge of Plymouth and loop around the city for a cost of $1,3216,627. The City Redevelopment Commission has agreed to fund the city’s portion of the project.
The County’s portion of the project is $1,150,548 to get the conduit from Ireland Road to the city limits of Plymouth. The funding for this portion was proposed as $250,000 from Saint Joseph County and $400,000 from Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, leaving $500,000 for Marshall County to fund. Brent Martin explained to the County Council that the $500,000 represents 15% of the total project cost and is 43% of the county’s share.
County Council members had many questions regarding the maintenance of the conduit and fiber, life expectancy of the conduit, possible revenue source of the two extra chambers of the conduit, the county’s use of the fiber and future costs. Their questions were answered during the 90 minute presentation with various presenters.
There are several initial subscribers waiting for this new technology including Zentis, 1st Source Bank, U.S. Granules, Kessler Crane, Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Plymouth, Hoosier Tire and Teacher’s Credit Union.
After some lengthy discussion the Marshall County Council voted 5-1-1 to support the project with financial backing. Although Judy Stone abstained from voting due to the fact that the conduit and fiber will run along her husband’s property and may provide enhanced value to his property, she did urge councilmembers to support the project. Councilman Matt Hassel representing the Bremen area voted against the project noting his constituents do not see a direct benefit to the Bremen community.
County Commissioner Kevin Overmyer recommended funding the project using $350,000 from the Rainy Day Fund and $150,000 for the Cum Cap Development Fund. The County Council will determine how they will fund the project in the January 2014 meeting.
This is a project that has been in the works for more than 8 years. Those involved were extremely happy to have the funding in place and anticipate the project going to bid late winter with construction to begin in the spring.