Rumford town manager: Broadband is future for downtown

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RUMFORD — Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs said bringing broadband service to The Island business district this summer is more important than completing a natural gas pipeline.

Speaking from her office Friday, Briggs elaborated on her comments made to EnvisionRumford members July 19. She explained to the economic development organization that plans to install a natural gas pipeline along River and Congress streets this summer were scratched because it would delay the $5.4 million project to replace water, sewerage and stormwater lines on The Island. 

The gas lines and fiber-optic cables were add-ons to the project, she said.

Rumford was awarded a $400,000 grant in August 2017 for fiber-optic cabling and natural gas pipelines through the Northern Border Regional Commission.

“We went for the grant before the engineering,” Briggs said. “After it was all engineered, it came out much more pricey than we could afford.”

As a result, she said they made changes to the add-on project to fit the budget, and “the natural gas piece of it became less important than the broadband.”

Briggs said they had to abandon certain streets unless the main project was pushed out to a second year, which she was not willing to do. She said a promise was made to get the work done by December.

“Am I disappointed? Yes. Did I make a promise to people? I suppose, by going after that grant, folks can think of that as a promise,” she said.

She said natural gas lines will be installed on Canal Street and fiber-optic cables will go under Canal and Congress streets, but not River Street.

“Alternatively, so that we can bring broadband to the entire island, we will go aerial on the other areas, Lowell and River streets,” Briggs said.

She said she stands by the decision she made to ensure there will be broadband service for The Island.

“That is our future on The Island. That is what is going to put people in the second and third floors of these buildings,” she said.

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