Fiber-optic project raises questions

The results of an audit of the Parks and Recreation Department stirred up some questions at the Board of Finance meeting on Nov. 18.

According to the report compiled by public accounting firm O’Connor Davies, which conducted the special audit, “there have been several instances of the Parks and Recreation Department having various technology issues involving adequacy of bandwidth and fire wall security issues,” which have “impacted the efficiency of the department.”

The report further states that the town of Wilton is “in the process of updating the network for the Comstock building and will be updating the network feed.” This surprised finance board member Al Alper.

“The report talks about expanding the network — is that what we’re doing the streets for? Are we linking up to Comstock?” Mr. Alper asked, which Chief Financial Officer Sandy Dennies confirmed.

“There was conduit put in under Route 7. We’ve only put in the conduit as Yankee Gas is going in and putting in conduit,” explained Ms. Dennies, who said the town is building trenches parallel to those of Yankee Gas.

“We have conduit all the way to Comstock, so when the renovations are done, we need to be able to pull the fiber to get us better connected.”

Ms. Dennies said the plan is to “solidify the connection” between the Parks and Recreation and Finance departments next year, as well as a connection with New World, the system used to record all the non-sufficient funds and program replacement fees collected by the Parks and Recreation Department.

“Also, in that track, we’re going right by Merwin Meadows, and so it might be appropriate for us to put a line right over to the barns so that they can connect to New World right from Merwin Meadows,” said Ms. Dennies.

“The department would like to plan for a future point of sale at Merwin Meadows to reduce cash intake and encourage more credit use,” Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce told The Bulletin.

“As for Comstock, the town’s IT director [John Savarese] is directly involved in the renovation project as a committee member and is overseeing any technological improvements to the facility.”

Mr. Pierce said the department’s goal is to have “at least two registration stations outside its office for the public to use when registering.”

Funds

Ms. Dennies said $120,000 was approved for the fiber connectivity in the fiscal year 2015 capital budget.

Mr. Alper questioned how it would cost only $120,000 to run conduit and fiber to Comstock when it cost the town close to $300,000 — although not all of it was spent — for the same type of project for Miller-Driscoll School.

“We spent more to do a shorter run, so it cost more than $120,000 to get to Comstock — it has to be if it cost more than that to get to Miller-Driscoll,” said Mr. Alper. “That’s a tougher, longer run than we did to Miller-Driscoll.”

Mr. Alper asked Ms. Dennies to provide the board with details on funding for the Miller-Driscoll and Comstock projects.

“It seems [like] Miller-Driscoll is shorter and easier, certainly from a vantage perspective — you’re going up river, up Belden Hill, and you’re right there, as opposed to up Route 7, under a bridge, through a brook, and over the hills,” said Mr. Alper.

“It seems to me that that should be more expensive — and maybe I’m wrong, but I’d like to see the cost [of] what we did for Miller-Driscoll, relative to what we’re doing here.”

Mr. Alper said another reason he would like to see cost details is because he is “surprised” that the town is fiber-optically connecting to Comstock after the Board of Selectmen pulled a $1.6-million fiber-optic project from a bonding vote last year.

“We killed the fiber project the last time because it wasn’t feasible,” he said, “and now we’re doing this and I’m just shocked by it.”

Ms. Dennies said she would provide those details at the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Monday, Dec. 22.