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OC, county end broadband dispute


Clackamas County and Oregon City this week ended a more than yearlong dispute over franchise fees that had delayed an $11.1 million county project.

Governing boards of both governmental agencies accepted a right-of-way use and franchise agreement that will enable the county’s broadband project to install fiber along city rights-of-way, as announced in a county press release on Thursday.

The agreement followed several months of negotiations and will enable the broadband project to provide a dark-fiber network connecting schools, fire stations, medical facilities and other governmental infrastructure. Other service providers may use the network for a fee.

On Sept. 13, 2011, while workers contracted by the county were installing fiber on Jackson Street, they received a pink slip from Oregon City’s Public Works Department demanding a work stoppage until they obtained a franchise agreement from the city 'Fee fight pushes network out of OC,' Dec. 28, 2011).

Clackamas County had already spent nearly $800,000 in the city on 20,000 feet of “major backbone” from the county’s headquarters at Red Soils to the Tri-City sewage treatment facility on the other side of town.

Oregon City officials contended that the county also didn’t obtain the necessary paperwork, pointing to a permit that only covered about 10,000 feet. Although city officials didn’t want the county to bypass their jurisdiction, the city also refused to make an exception for the county at the expense of fairness to other agencies and municipal taxpayers.

This week’s agreement between the city and county covers a 20-year period and includes payments to the city for use of city rights-of-way to accommodate the project.

“This is a mutually beneficial agreement that recognizes the unique nature of the broadband project in Oregon City and marks a new spirit of cooperation between the county and Oregon City,” said County Commission Chairman John Ludlow. “I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to the mayor and the Oregon City Commission for making this happen, as well as City Manager David Frasher and city staff. I also congratulate county staff for its excellent work.”

The Oregon City Commission approved the agreement at a meeting Wednesday evening. The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved it at a business meeting on Thursday morning.

Frasher acknowledged the commitment of the Oregon City Commission to properly manage city rights-of-way and credited county elected officials for their willingness to take a fresh look at the impasse.

“This agreement would not have been possible without strong leadership from Chair John Ludlow and City Commission representatives Betty Mumm and Carol Pauli,” the city manager said.

The county was awarded a $7.8 million federal grant in 2010 to install more than 180 miles of broadband infrastructure throughout Clackamas County with $3.3 million in local matching funds.

County officials say that the project will now move forward with new connections and installations in Oregon City.