State may nix Versailles broadband project
KentuckyWired officials have apparently cancelled a broadband Internet construction project on Douglas Avenue. Doug Hendrix, general counsel for the agency, sent the following email to a lawyer representing the city of Versailles on Thursday, Aug. 18, at 2:50 p.m. “Upon further review, due to the delay and potential costs to the project, the Commonwealth is reviewing alternate construction routes excluding the Versailles area. For that reason, we are unable to meet with you and Mayor (Brian) Traugott regarding the MOU (memorandum of understanding),” Hendrix wrote to Linda Ain. Five hours earlier, Hendrix had written Ain that he and Chris Moore, the Kentucky Communications Network Authority’s (KCNA) executive director, could meet with her and Traugott Friday afternoon. The Sun called Hendrix, who later left a message saying we should speak with Moore. Moore did not immediately return a call from The Sun. Hendrix’s second email to Ain appears to mark the end of a dispute in which Traugott tangled with another high-ranking state official and sent a strongly-worded letter to the governor. On Aug 5, Traugott met in his office with Moore and another KCNA official to discuss KentuckyWired, the multi-million-dollar effort to increase broadband Internet opportunities across much of the state. Traugott said the Versailles project involved a state-contracted private company installing fiber optic cable in the Lewis Walton Park-Douglas Avenue area. In June, the KCNA sent Traugott a draft (MOU) asking for rights-of-way in the area. Two weeks ago, Moore told The Sun that KentuckyWired contractors were prepared to begin construction on an underground conduit in Versailles in early August, then learned the city had hired a lawyer (Ain) to negotiate the MOU. Moore said he requested the meeting with Traugott to express his concern about a potential delay. Traugott said during the meeting, he asked, “If you utilize our property, do the citizens of Versailles get something in return?” and wondered, with Time Warner and Windstream offering service in Versailles, if area residents needed another Internet provider. Moore told The Sun that the project will benefit the entire state and allow the Kentucky Community Technical College System (KCTCS) headquarters a better link to its campuses around the state. That would only happen if an Internet service provider hooks up to the conduit, he said. “They just run it through with the understanding that a third party could hook up and provide Internet access (in the future),” Traugott said. Traugott said the meeting was unproductive and, at times, uncivil. Three days later, John Mark-Hack, the Commissioner of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Department of Vehicle Regulation, called The Sun. Hack said he did so as a private citizen of Woodford County, and that Moore called him after the meeting because he knew Hack lives here and was “somewhat astounded” at Traugott’s response. Hack told Sun reporter Bob Vlach that Traugott might be holding up the project because the Bevin Administration had not included the proposed Northwest Versailles Mobility Corridor in its six-year road plan. The Sun called Traugott, who then wrote 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. …” Hack said Traugott’s email to him showed the mayor’s lack of maturity when people disagree with him. Traugott said his refusal to quickly grant the rights-of-way had nothing to do with the proposed extension of Falling Springs Boulevard, which he’d publicly backed, being nixed. The following day, he sent a letter to Gov. Matt Bevin and Greg Thomas, secretary of Hack’s Transportation cabinet. “The actions of certain members of your staff from Friday, Aug. 5 to Monday, Aug. 8 were completely unprofessional and worthy of your attention,” the letter began. Traugott said Moore’s “snide remarks” at the Aug. 5 meeting were not well-received and that Moore wasn’t interested in hearing his concerns. “Commissioner Hack’s allegations were that I was playing games as some sort of tit-for-tat response to your removal of funding for the NW Versailles Mobility Corridor project. You can imagine my even greater surprise when I pondered why a commissioner from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet would be conducting political attacks during working hours …” Traugott wrote. Traugott wrote that the state constitution keeps public rights-of-way from being granted without a franchise agreement and because the matter was now a high-profile issue (due to The Sun’s Aug. 11 story), he needed advice from the city council before signing the document. That night, with Hendrix in attendance, Traugott got the council’s go-ahead to sign the MOU after Ain completed it. Tuesday, Traugott told The Sun that he hadn’t received a response to his letter to Bevin and Thomas. Asked whether he believed the letter was a factor in the state’s decision to end negotiations, Traugott said he hoped not. “You can’t rule that out, obviously. Feelings may have been hurt. But I thought it important that the governor realize what was going on under his watch. The governor, whether you like what he does or not, seems to like to get things done, and it looked like they (Hack and Moore) were putting politics in front of results on that,” Traugott said. Traugott said he is still willing to work with KentuckyWired and could have reached an agreement if he and Ain had met with Moore and Hendrix Aug. 19. “This is a prime example of a mountain being constructed out of a molehill. I would love to put this issue to bed, one way or another. I’ve spent about 99 percent more time than I thought I would on it,” Traugott said.