High speed fiber optic internet on the way to Bluff businesses, residents

Fiber optic internet will be available to businesses and residents in Bluff starting in 2021. The availability was announced at the November 17 meeting of the Bluff Town Council.

Emery Telcom President Brock Johansen informed the town council of the plan.

Speaking on the Red Rock Morning Show, Bluff Mayor Ann Leppanen explained the announcement came as a bit of a shock as the town had been told that schools, medical facilities and libraries had been given priority earlier in the project.

“We were told that the board of Emery Telecom, which is a nonprofit, had voted to fund the project into Bluff so that the Bluff residents and businesses could get the fiber optic,” said Leppanen. “So sometime after the first of the year, Bluff businesses and residents will be notified that they can apply for a monthly service from Emery.”

Mayor Leppanen was pleased to report that Emery Telecom will not charge for hookup to the service, but there will be a monthly service fee.

“I think that’s probably why we hadn’t been notified previously,” Leppanen said. “They were working on how they would do it. Emery started as a cooperative provider because Bell Telephone refused to provide services, I think in the 1950’s, so they really have an investment in rural communities.

“I think that watching what’s happened down here with pandemics and communications, I think they really took it upon themselves to say, ‘Hey Bluff deserves a little break here.’ We are excited, I think it took all of us by surprise.”

Additionally in the November 3 General Election, more than 80 percent of Bluff residents voted to dissolve the Bluff Service Area (BSA), which was the local government entity in Bluff before the town was incorporated in 2018.

Dissolving the BSA came after the area had already transferred assets and property to the town. Mayor Leppanen reported that the town was able to dissolve some debts the BSA had owed, in connection to some water study projects.

“We knew that there was an advance due to the (Utah) Division of Water Quality. The highest number was $164,000 as a result of two advanced planning loans to the BSA. Jackie Warren, the chair of the BSA and myself made a presentation to the Division of Water Quality.

“We were able to persuade them that forgiving that advance would be in Bluff’s best interest because as a new town, we don’t plan in putting in a sewer system or a waste water treatment system.”

The Mayor said carrying the debt on the books puts the town at higher level of financial scrutiny if they want to apply for a grant or loan.

Bluff also held a public hearing on November 17 to field ideas about possible projects to pursue if the town applies for a Community Development Block Grant.

Ideas included remodeling portions of the community center, making an approximate one mile of the Bluff Town River Trail accessible according to the American with Disabilities Act guidelines, but not a lot other ideas.

The council could also decide that the timing to applying for another development block grant might not be right. The council will be open to hear other ideas as part of their public comment session of upcoming meetings.

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