WALDO — Members of the Select Board and Broadband Committee met Monday afternoon with representatives of Unitel, the town’s chosen broadband provider, to hammer out a plan.

The next step, according to Shirley Caler, a member of the Select Board and the committee, is an engineering study, which Unitel will conduct. Its $45,000 price tag will be covered by a $25,000 grant the town has received from ConnectMaine Authority and the $20,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to Waldo by the county.

Members of the Broadband Committee are Caler’s daughter, Chelsea Caler, Ashley Gould, Cindy Ledbetter, Victoria Wilson and Carrie Whitcomb. Last year the committee interviewed three possible broadband providers — Spectrum, Consolidated and Unitel.

“We kind of liked Unitel from the start,” Shirley Caler told The Republican Journal, “because of their customer service and because they’re a local company.” In late December, they chose Unitel, she said.

The meeting Feb. 21 established the need for an engineering study to determine how much it will cost to run internet for the town, she said, and then the parties will draw up a contract. Caler said they anticipate receiving the study results in March or April.

Armed with the results, the committee will look to its Bangor-based consultant, Mission Broadband, for assistance in seeking grants to help cover expenses. The town also has another $40,000 in ARPA funds coming.

Waldo Select Board members, along with officials from other towns, met Feb. 15 with Neil Goldberg of Maine Municipal Association to find out what restrictions, if any, they might have in allocating those ARPA funds. “He basically told us ‘you can do anything you want’ with the funds,” Caler said, “including roads, culverts, fire departments, EMS, broadband.”

The town has until 2024 to advise the federal government of its allocations, and until 2026 to actually spend the money, she said. This will be done through a special portal that the town must set up by April 30.

For ease of managing the monies, Goldberg recommended placing all the town’s ARPA funds in a single account labeled “General Government Services,” an approach the Select Board had been considering.

He also recommended “that we stay away from something that’s maintained every year,” Caler added, and instead spend the money for needed “one-time things.”

In preparation for town meeting March 26, Select Board members have finalized the warrant and have been working through the town’s proposed budget in their recent weekly meetings. They were looking forward to the meeting with Goldberg and the guidance he would provide as they finalized proposed expenditures, among them line items for the Fire Department and roads, as well as broadband.

Caler mentioned Monday that the Broadband Committee is encouraged by its conversations with Brooks about collaborating on broadband efforts. She said she has also heard Knox is exploring broadband. “I’m interested in having a conversation with them,” she said. “I will be reaching out.”

Town meeting will be held Saturday, March 26, in the Community Building behind Town Hall. It will begin with an informal breakfast discussion at 8 a.m., followed by the meeting at 9 a.m.

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