Journal of the San Juan Islands


Newly formed Lopez group calls for vote on OPALCO broadband

February 14, 2013 · 5:21 PM

A petition for change in OPALCO bylaws could result in a membership wide vote on the power co-op's proposed broadband initiative. / Journal file art

Lopezians want members to vote on whether OPALCO should proceed with its $34 million broadband initiative.

On Feb. 4, the Lopez Island chapter of Citizens for Safe Technology presented a “request for bylaw revision” to the local power cooperative, asking that the OPALCO board of directors allow members to vote on the broadband project and impose restrictions on the number and location of Wi-Fi and cellphone towers, should the project be implemented.

The group collected almost double the 50 signatures required. OPALCO is reviewing the petition and, if legally sufficient, the board will address the petition May 4, as part of the co-op's annual meeting.

If adopted by the board, the bylaw amendment would restrict towers to existing sub-stations and require a vote of all property owners within 1,500 feet of any other location.

The OPALCO board recently approved a 6-9-month program of community engagement to educate co-op members about the $34 million project.

The project's business plan call for all members to pay $15 per month to defray construction costs, and an additional $75 per month to connect with the internet. Telephone service would be provided along with the internet connection.

OPALCO has already obtained a multi-million dollar loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help fund the project.


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