VMs Discuss Bulk Fiber Optic Contract and Security Concerns

Shawn Yesner, WCA president, called the February Voting Members meeting to order shortly after 6:30 p.m., and asked the VMs to review the minutes from the January 10 meeting. The VMs unanimously passed a motion approving the minutes as written.

Government Affairs Committee Chair Eric Holt then took the floor to introduce two representatives from Blue Stream Fiber. The company offers bulk fiber optic contracts to HOAs, condo associations, and neighborhoods, and wanted the opportunity to present their concept to the VMs, said Holt.

The board had reviewed the terms of a potential agreement with Blue Stream and agreed that it was appropriate to share with the VMs in the hopes of getting feedback on the general idea of a bulk contract, Holt explained. If the VMs, as a whole, were in favor of moving forward, they would have to reach out to all homeowners for their input as well, he stressed.

Ramona Smith, Blue Stream’s director of community development, told the VMs that her company is based in Broward County and has been in business solely in the state of Florida for 40 years. Their reliability is unparalleled, largely because they install neighborhood hubs, then run the fiber optic from the hubs directly to homes, she said.

Blue Stream guarantees whole home wifi, which means that the company’s extenders ensure that every room in your house will have the same amount of signal that it would if it were right next to a modem, said Smith. They also guarantee hold times of no more than one minute when customers reach out to their call centers, and a return to service in four hours, she explained.

Blue Stream offers symmetrical speeds as well, which means customers can upload and download information at the same high speeds, Smith said. The company would pay to install all of the necessary infrastructure, and all cables are installed underground, she continued. For a neighborhood the size of Westchase, there would likely be three large cabinets installed throughout the community, and the only equipment installed in each home is a wireless box called an optical network terminal, or ONT, Smith explained.

Holt then shared that the WCA, which would administer the contract, would get a signing bonus of approximately $1 million ($300 per door) for signing a 10-year contract. Every Westchase household would pay $29.95 per month for one gig of internet service, regardless of whether they chose to use Blue Stream or pay additionally for a different service provider, he said. Homeowners would pay the fee as part of their annual homeowner’s assessment, he added.

Holt opened the floor to public comments, and a member of the audience asked whether he could get out of the contract if he wasn’t pleased with Blue Stream’s service. Smith replied that individuals could not opt out, due to the nature of a bulk contract, but that the WCA could break the contract if the company failed to provide what they had guaranteed.

Smith said that having fiber service increases the value of a home by about 3.5 percent over a home without fiber. She also assured the VMs that the fiber optic cables are buried at a depth of 18 inches and surrounded by PVC in an effort to avoid damage from both digging and weather.

Holt asked the VMs whether any were opposed to continuing the conversation with Blue Stream or other similar service providers, and they all said they were in favor of speaking to their constituents about the possibility of some sort of bulk fiber optic contract.

Yesner moved on to the matter of vultures. He shared that he had attended the most recent CDD meeting and that the supervisors voted to reup the existing contract with the USDA. They asked the USDA to notify them before they used any lethal means of addressing the vulture problem, said Yesner.

The WCA’s counsel will hold its annual training for the VMs at the next meeting, which is scheduled for March 14, said Yesner. That date is during the Hillsborough County School District’s spring break, and he asked whether the VMs wanted to move the meeting to March 7 or 21 to avoid having issues achieving a quorum. Eleven of 20 VMs who were present voted to move the meeting to March 7. Yesner told the VMs to email any questions they had for the attorneys to Community Manager Debbie Sainz prior to the meeting.

Charles Stephens, VM for Chelmsford, shared that early that morning some unwelcome visitors had traversed the neighborhood checking to see whether parked vehicles were locked and removing items from unlocked vehicles. He introduced Chelmsford resident Kyle James, who shared that he had served as a Marine for 13 years and had experience in the private security sector.

James stated that he had spoken to a local deputy about the incident, which had been reported to police. Based upon doorbell camera footage and eyewitness accounts, the perpetrators appeared to know the neighborhood well and moved quickly and efficiently through it, said James.

He said that Chelmsford has major vulnerabilities and wanted to know whether there was a way to improve the neighborhood’s physical security. He then asked whether cameras and/or gates could be installed in the Fords.

Yesner replied that gating new communities would cause a host of logistical issues. Kingsford VM Forrest Baumhover agreed, and pointed out that Westchase’s gated communities were built that way from the ground up. He said that if the CDD were to install new gates, it would have to buy back all of the newly gated roads from the county and then pay for the new infrastructure, which would likely be cost prohibitive.

Jim Brinker, VM for the West Park Village Classic Townhomes, said that he disagreed with James’ assessment that Westchase has a lot of crime in comparison to other communities.

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