Council, Sprint both dig conduit ordinance

POULSBO — Poulsbo City Councilman and telecommunications proponent Ed Stern was all smiles as Councilman Dale Rudolph moved for the approval of the city’s first conduit ordinance Wednesday.

“I second that with an Amen,” Stern followed. “This has been a hard fought battle.”

And all over a little empty conduit.

At its Aug. 20 meeting, the Poulsbo City Council unanimously approved the ordinance, which allows the city to require empty conduit be laid in any new development in the city. That conduit could be used by any company to lay infrastructure for things like fiber optics in the future without having to dig into city streets to do so.

“We’re providing empty access for whoever,” City Engineer John Stephenson explained Wednesday night.

But what seemed like housekeeping to some turned into a heated debate last month. The ordinance, drafted by City Attorney Jim Haney with consultation from Mike Bookey of Pachena Light Consulting, was originally before the city council July 9 for adoption, however, Sprint employees objected to a handful of items in document.

Sprint Representative Brad Camp contended that the first draft could be construed as favoring technologies like fiber over others. He said his company was concerned the ordinance could be a “barrier to entry” for some technologies.

The item was sent back to the Public Works Committee on July 23 where Sprint representatives said they liked some of the changes that had been made but asked for more.

The ordinance adopted this week makes more general references to the technologies and standards that may be used in laying the conduit. This time, Sprint seemed pleased with the results. Camp hand-delivered a letter from Sprint’s council and president relaying that the company was happy with the ordinance.

“We’d like to thank the council for listening to our concerns,” Camp told council members. “As a telecom provider for over a century, we want to remind you that we are a resource to the city when you start talking about telecom needs.”

During the more than month process between the initial objection and the final passage, council members like Stern had expressed concern that waiting too long could mean problems for developments like the massive Olhava, which is beginning to build infrastructure this month. Stern said he was glad Sprint approved of the ordinance but added that he was baffled the company had so much of an objection in the first place.

“Sprint already has parallel conduit and this was not expected to impact Sprint and, indeed, Sprint was not expected to comment on this and yet they have weighed in on this,” Stern said.

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