Having lived in Readfield for more than six years now, I feel truly blessed to be a resident here.

Readfield is a great community within proximity to pretty much everything you could want to do, both indoors and outdoors. It also has made investments in land access, water access and trails, making it a truly wonderful place to live and raise a family.

That said, there is no denying that since moving to town, this place has become more and more unaffordable for families and those living on fixed incomes. That’s why I was alarmed to hear about two items that will be on the June 14 ballot: a warrant to approve a $5 million bond for the town to purchase its own broadband through Axiom and a $500,000 bond to build a sports complex.

If they are both approved, the average household in Readfield can expect to pay around $240 per year more in property taxes. That may not seem too bad until you examine the details.

During the March 2 Readfield Broadband Committee Meeting, the committee and town manager reviewed broadband cost estimates from five companies. The estimates ranged from $167,354 from Spectrum, the company that currently provides my internet and cell phone service, to $5.5 million. The second most expensive quote, at just shy of $5 million, was by Axiom Technologies, a Machias-based company with a troubling record for providing high-speed fiber optic broadband in Maine.

A simple search shows that Axiom has a 2.6 star rating on Google. Broadband Now ranks Spectrum, the predominant provider of broadband in my area, higher than that in every single category: reliability, speed, equipment, support, interaction and value. Further, the ConnectME map clearly shows that broadband availability is not an issue in Readfield. In reality, there are only 25-40 undeserved households in Readfield, and for a fraction of the cost of the Axiom bid, those households could receive reliable broadband service through an existing and proven provider.

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And then there’s the cost per household to consider. The town recently launched a website with cost estimates broken down by household. The average household in Readfield can expect to pay $60 per month between increased property taxes and monthly fees if they opt to sign up.

That is, coincidentally, exactly what my household pays for internet reliable internet service through Spectrum, so there is no savings involved with this plan, and thus, no real upside to the town taking on all of the risk associated with providing this necessary service to our community.

To make matters worse, if residents don’t sign up, they are still on the hook for a $20 per month increase in property taxes to subsidize the residents who do opt to sign up.

No matter how you cut it, this broadband project is a wasteful solution in search of a problem. Having worked from home for more than two years now, I have zero complaints with the service offered through Spectrum. It is fast, affordable and reliable. As long as we have power, the internet is available. So why is the Broadband Committee and town government determined to purchase a redundant system, at full cost, leaving taxpayers on the hook for initial and future upgrades and costs? It simply doesn’t make sense.

And then there’s the sports complex bond, which would support a major expansion to the town’s fairgrounds property. While I am a big proponent of encouraging folks to get outside and gather as a community, the town has done nothing to try to bring the cost to property tax payers down. It hasn’t applied for federal grants, like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, it hasn’t applied for a congressionally directed funding request or for any other type of grant. There are plenty of resources out there, beyond the local property tax base, to help offset the cost of a project of this scope and size. Every rock should be turned over before coming to the taxpayers for yet another tax increase.

During a time of record inflation and global instability, we need to be sure that when we spend money, we spend it wisely. On June 14, Readfield residents will have the opportunity to either approve or deny these spending requests. I urge them to join me in voting no. The town can, and must, do better.

Krysta West lives in Readfield.


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