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BPW puts delay on permit requests
MONROE - Utility and telecommunication companies asking for a city permit to lay underground infrastructure in public right-of-ways will have to wait while the city updates its ordinances and regulations on the use of those areas.

The City of Monroe Board of Public Works on Monday, March 31, instituted a temporary moratorium on pending and future permit requests.

Director of Public Works Colin Simpson said the city has been seeing a "rapid progression" of companies wanting to bury cable and fiber. The moratorium is to allow the city time to hone its ordinances and permitting process before moving forward.

The temporary delay in approving permits is not expected to be a long one.

"We're going to provide all the manpower we can," Simpson said.

One submitted permit request is currently being held up. TDS Telecommunications Corporation is "looking for access to half of the city," Simpson noted.

Among the changes that Simpson hopes to make is expediting the process of permitting while giving the Department of Public Works a chance to review the permits, particularly to verify no installation conflicts arise. Requiring maps in GIS format of the permitted projects will be included.

Simpson also wants to provide the city with the right to require companies to move their infrastructure at the companies' cost.

"A more comprehensive code would give us better ways to manage or make changes to these requests," he said.

Board members were concerned more regulation would drive companies away from the city. But Simpson said he has never seen a right-of-way ordinance stop a telecommunication project.

"There's a community here that needs their services," he said, and companies see that as "valuable business."

The Department of Public Works is also looking into ways to expand the city's own fiber and cable infrastructure. One option is to require companies to lay a conduit for the city while installing their own and to deed it over to the city.

"The cost is not in the fiber and cable itself," Simpson said. Over a long period of time, as more fiber or cable is installed, it would eventually provide an internal network for the city at very little cost, he added.