VIENNA — Even before town residents voted to pass a proposal to establish a town broadband authority at Saturday’s Town Meeting, they were applauding.

Earlier this year town officials, who have been working to improve internet service for years, learned Vienna had secured nearly $2.3 million from the Maine Connectivity Authority to provide townwide high-speed internet.

On Saturday, about three dozen residents of this small town in northwest Kennebec County voted unanimously to take the next needed step in the process by establishing a town broadband authority.

The state grant is expected to cover the bulk of the cost of building out a fiber-t0-the-home network, which is estimated to cost $2.6 million. The remainder can be paid for out of the town’s reserve funds or a bond that can be paid back using subscription fees.

“This brings us into the 20th century,” Selectwoman Laura Church said, following the hour-long meeting.

While internet is now available in Vienna via DSL provided by Consolidated Communications — the only provider available — the speed is too slow for many current internet demands. The town has no cable service. Spectrum, which provides cable, telephone and internet service across central Maine, does not serve Vienna; its network ends in the neighboring towns of Mount Vernon and New Sharon.


“I know of a couple that had a contract to sell their home here,” Church said. “The people who were buying it were folks who worked from home. When they discovered how terrible the internet is out here, they canceled their contract.”

Church said she expects Vienna’s service to be unique in that no town taxpayer money will be used to pay for it; it will be supported by subscriptions.

Construction is expected to start in the fall. When it’s done, town residents say it will have a great impact.

“It means I get to work from home,” said Katie Church, Laura Church’s daughter-in-law.

Katie Church works for the Maine Coalition to End Sexual Assault. While she is fortunate to have childcare, she says there are days she has to work from home to put her kids on the bus.

Her home internet is not robust enough to use Zoom for meetings, and she routinely loses her connection.  In those instances, she uses a cellphone hotspot to stay connected.


In Vienna, the annual municipal election is held the Friday before Town Meeting. Church, who ran unopposed, was reelected with 38 votes. Josh Robbins, who is currently serving on the Mt. Blue Regional School District board of directors, was reelected to the post as a write-in candidate, earning 35 votes.

Resident Josh Robbins speaks Saturday during the annual Town Meeting at the Vienna Fire Department. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The property tax rate for the town of 578 residents, according to the 2020 Census, is $19.90 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Town officials won’t know what the updated property tax rate will be until after the Mt. Blue Regional School District budget referendum vote in June. The assessment for Kennebec County government was established earlier this week.

The Vienna Board of Selectmen proposed spending $665,110 raised through property tax during the budget year, $5,349 more than a year ago or an increase of just under 1%. But voters proposed and endorsed adding $5,000 each to the road maintenance and paving accounts and $1,500 to the 30-Mile River Association.

John Archard asks for an increase in hourly rates for the code enforcement officer Saturday during annual Town Meeting at the Vienna Fire Department. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

John Archard, Vienna’s plumbing inspector, suggested doubling the pay rate for a code enforcement officer for the town, noting that the existing $15 per hour in the proposed spending plan was too low.

“To hire a code enforcement officer for the amount one could make at McDonald’s is absurd,” Archard said, noting that’s what he was paid more than a decade ago when he served in the position. He only did so because he lived in town and was doing it as a service.

Vienna currently does not have a code enforcement officer.

Voters agreed to that change and to increase the amount set aside for payroll taxes because of the increase.

To help offset town spending, voters also agreed to apply vehicle and boat excise taxes, as well as fees the town collects for its services, as revenue.

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