City leaders approve fee waiver for project that will install $2.7M fiber internet network for school district

photo by: City of Lawrence screenshot

The Lawrence City Commission is pictured at City Hall on Nov. 1, 2022.

Updated at 9:05 a.m. Wednesday

City leaders have approved waiving a fee that the city typically charges businesses to use public right-of-way for a company that will be building a fiber internet network for the Lawrence school district.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted 5-0 to authorize a memorandum of understanding with the Kansas-based fiber internet provider WANRack to waive the city’s right-of-way fees related to services provided to the school district. The city will forgo the collection of $3,900 in fees from WANRack annually as part of the agreement.

Deputy City Attorney Randy Larkin said the city brought the request forward for commission consideration because the city’s right-of-way is a valuable asset and the city does pay other governmental entities for use of their right-of-way. However, Larkin said the city has waived the fee in the past if a project provides a public benefit.

Representatives for both the school district and WANRack attended the meeting, and Commissioner Brad Finkeldei confirmed that if the city waived the fee, those savings would be passed to the school district and not go into the pocket of WANRack.

The city charges two types of right-of-way fees, a permit fee and a fee representing 5% of gross revenues derived from services provided as the result of a company’s use of the right-of-way. WANRack requested a waiver of the 5% fee the city typically charges on revenue from the services it provides the district.

The agreement between the city and WANRack will give the company access to the city’s rights-of-way for the location of fiber optic cable with the goal of connecting all the district’s buildings to the network, pursuant to the contract the district has with WANRack, according to the city memo. The agreement between the city and WANRack will also allow WANRack to provide fiber optic services to other customers in the city.

In January, the Lawrence school board approved a contract with WANRack to build and maintain a private fiber network for a total cost of $2.7 million, according to a district memo at the time. Currently, the district receives wide area network (WAN) and internet services from Midco. The district has since received federal funding to help pay the majority of the costs to install the fiber network, with the district’s costs for the install totaling $495,136, according to Technology Director David Vignery. It will take about two years to build the network, and Vignery has said the district will receive the reimbursement for the capital outlay fund at the end of construction.

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to clarify that WANRack is a Kansas-based company, although it incorporated in Delaware.


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