Townwide fiber network project gets a second look

Should Wilton move forward with a townwide, underground fiber network project linking the library and all town and school facilities? Blum Shapiro, a consulting firm hired by the town to address the need for the project, is urging Wilton to go ahead and get wired.

At a meeting of the townwide network committee on Thursday, Sept. 13, Jeffrey I. Ziplow of Blum Shapiro outlined a lengthy report calling for the town to connect the three main locations with fiber conduit "to ensure that the town of Wilton be able to operate in the event of a disaster, and to mitigate significant risks."

Mr. Ziplow said the "reliable, high-speed underground fiber" network would allow the town to continue to function during emergencies. It would also protect Wilton's "critical information assets" during disasters and emergencies. He described such assets as "core or critical pieces of information."

Along with "the continuous operation, the network redundancy would also allow efficient data backup at all three core locations," he said.

The committee charged with revisiting the project is composed of Sandy Dennies, the town's chief financial officer, and representatives of the town's three elected boards and the Wilton Library; Selectman Jim Saxe; Board of Education member Laura Schwemm; Janice Hess of Wilton Library's board of trustees; and Board of Finance member Al Alper.

Blum Shapiro is the largest regional accounting, tax and business consulting firm in New England, with offices in West Hartford and Shelton, according to its website. The firm was selected in July as a third-party consultant to address the need for the $1.675-million capital bonded fiber optic project, which ran aground during last spring's budget season.

In his report to the committee last week, Mr. Ziplow said the need for a fiber network during times of emergency was underscored by the two major storms of last year, Tropical Storm Irene, and the Halloween snowstorm, which caused widespread power outages.

According to Mr. Ziplow, "fiber is a proven technological tool and a great transport mechanism ... It is used by many communities in the state."

The plan also aimed to piggyback on the Yankee Gas trenching project, which has run into property easement issues, causing a delay in order to untangle the problems.

However, Ms. Dennies said town officials plans to meet with Yankee Gas representatives in the near future — so the committee should be prepared to make recommendations.

"We need to articulate them in a clear way and set a vision," said Mr. Saxe.

Mr. Ziplow said the Yankee Gas trenching project affords "a great opportunity ... an alignment of the moon and the stars that should not be missed."

The $15,000 cost of Blum Shapiro's assessment will be split three ways, with the town and the Board of Education paying $6,000 each; and the library paying $3,000.