County joins school fiber network project

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday night (May 17) to move forward with a fiber network project that will benefit both the school system and county government.

The fiber project will connect key school spots, including the Abrams building, the School Board office and the bus garage, onto the same network. The schools are under a federal requirement to up their bandwidth by 2020.

This project will result in fiber being laid near key county buildings. In some cases, the fiber will cross in front of county building entrance roads. For this reason, the county can piggyback onto the project at a tremendously lower cost than if it undertook a fiber connectivity project on its own.

Supervisors therefore decided to connect the library, sheriff’s office, county administration building, Palmyra fire station, and social services building.

Money from a federal program known as E-rate and from the Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) may help to significantly lower the cost of this project. Josh Gifford, IT director for the schools, estimated that the project has an 80 percent chance of securing those funds. It may take a year or more to learn whether the project was approved for E-rate and VPSA rebates, Gifford said.

Without any rebate, the total cost of the school project is $440,000. If the E-rate and VSPA dollars come through, the cost will plummet to $88,000.

Last December supervisors approved a $430,222 carryover of unspent fiscal year 2016 (FY16) school funds to the FY17 capital improvements plan (CIP) and earmarked it for the fiber network project.

The December price tag was an estimate as the project had not yet gone out for bid. Supervisors voted 4-0 Wednesday night (Chairman Mike Sheridan absent) to allocate a supplemental appropriation of $9,778 to fully finance the project.

They also voted 4-0 to approve a transfer of $43,500 from unassigned fund balance to the FY17 CIP for the county fiber network project.

Owning its own fiber will allow the county to cut the amount it pays for internet to the tune of $24,000 a year, according to information presented at a Jan. 18 meeting. The project will therefore pay for itself in less than two years, and additional savings will continue to accrue.

The library portion of the project is eligible for E-rate dollars. If that money comes through, the cost of the county project will decrease to $36,900.