• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Officials in dispute over broadband line

STATE OFFICIALS are asking for rights of way along Lewis Walton Park and Douglas Avenue in order to lay fiber optic cables for future broadband internet providers. Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and a city-hired attorney are negotiating terms of the rights of way needed for the $305,000 state-funded project. (Photo by John McGary)

Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and a member of a group that fought against Walmart and the proposed Northwest Versailles Mobility Corridor are feuding about rights-of-way – and much more. John-Mark Hack is a member of Citizens for Sustainable Community Growth and the commissioner of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Department of Vehicle Regulation. He said he called The Sun as a private citizen of Woodford County. Traugott confirmed the Aug. 5 meeting in his office with Chris Moore, the executive director of the Kentucky Communications Network Authority (KCNA), and another KCNA official. They discussed the KentuckyWired program, a multi-million-dollar effort to increase broadband Internet opportunities around the state. Traugott said KentuckyWired officials want a state-contracted private company to install fiber optic cable for future broadband access, but first need the city to grant rights-of-way in the Lewis Walton Park-Douglas Avenue area. In June, the KCNA sent Traugott a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) asking for rights-of-way in the area. Moore, the executive director of the KCNA, told The Sun that KentuckyWired contractors were prepared to begin construction on an underground conduit in Versailles last week until they learned the city had hired a lawyer to negotiate the MOU. Hack said he requested a meeting with Traugott to express his concerns about a potential delay in the project. Traugott said he told them the rights-of-way belonged to the citizens of Versailles, not the state, or Kentucky Wired, or the Bevin administration. He asked, “If you utilize our property, do the citizens of Versailles get something in return?” He also wondered, with Time Warner and Windstream already offering service in Versailles, if area residents need more Internet providers. Moore told The Sun that the project will benefit all of Kentucky and that better bandwidth would allow the Kentucky Community Technical College System (KCTCS) headquarters to more effectively link up with its campuses around the state. That would only happen if another Internet service provider hooks up to the conduit, he said. “The network itself is what’s called open access, meaning anyone has the right to interconnect to the network and … with the customer,” Moore said. Traugott said the fiber optic lines would be what’s known as a “middle mile,” not connecting to any businesses or homes. “They just run it through with the understanding that a third party could hook up and provide Internet access (in the future),” Traugott said. He added that if Moore had promised that the project would provide better service, that would have met his standard of providing a benefit to the people of Versailles. Traugott said the meeting was less than productive and, at times, uncivil. Hack told The Sun that Moore called him after the meeting because he knew Hack lives in Woodford County and because Moore was “somewhat astounded” at Traugott’s response. “My understanding is that the project is under construction and hasn’t encountered any kind of obstruction or resistance from local communities along the way until interacting with the city of Versailles,” Hack said. Hack said when Moore told him of the meeting, he felt Traugott was ignoring the benefits that the project could bring the citizens of Versailles. He told Sun reporter Bob Vlach that he wondered whether Traugott was holding up the project over lingering resentment of the Gov. Matt Bevin administration not including the proposed Northwest Versailles Bypass in its six-year road plan. “That was me, speculating, just contemplating, what could possibly possess a local official to stand in the way of an initiative to bring broadband service to folks who don’t have it,” Hack said. “I couldn’t come up with any other reason than the mayor potentially wanting to engage in some political grandstanding or some political tit for tat.” The Sun called Traugott to ask him about the matter. Traugott then sent the following email to Hack: “Mr. Hack – Are you getting paid to work in the Transportation Cabinet or KentuckyWired? To link my thoughts on the bypass to the KentuckyWired project is pitiful, even for someone as cowardly as you. I expressed my concerns to Chris Moore that the citizens of Versailles got nothing from giving up our right of way. In fact, I worked with our attorney, Linda Ain, over the weekend to draft a MOU (memorandum of understanding) that addressed the city’s concerns. “Doesn’t your administration have a statute to usurp or a university to cut? Any time you want to take a break from regulating motor vehicles and discuss Versailles happenings, reach out to me like an adult please. Thanks and have a great week. BT” Hack called Traugott’s email to him a sign of the mayor’s lack of maturity when people disagree with him. Traugott said his refusal to, as yet, grant the rights-of-way had nothing to do with the bypass being nixed by the Bevin administration. He also made no apologies for his email to Hack, following it up with another with the proposed MOU attached. It began, “Thank you so much for your timely response. I want to make sure it meets with your approval first. The well-being and input of the citizens of Versailles is of the utmost importance. It would mean a lot if you would take a look at this MOU and give it your blessing or make suggestions. I am honored that as a high-level Bevin appointee, attacking me made your to-do list for the day! …” Asked about Hack’s suggestion that he was holding up the Douglas Avenue project as political payback, Traugott said, “There’s one hack in this conversation, and it’s not me. It’s the aptly named Commissioner of Motor Vehicle Regulation.”

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