For now, the communication towers for South Putnam School Corporation remain grounded.
Supt. Bruce Bernhardt informed the board and the audience during Monday's school board meeting about the frustrating, ongoing process of erecting the communications towers to provide a communication link and a highspeed Internet link between the four schools and the administration building.
Currently, South Putnam is the only school corporation in the county that does not provide highspeed Internet for the students. Bernhardt said the project started because the board wanted South Putnam students to have the same type of opportunities that the other county school corporation students have.
Bernhardt said one of the problems with the project was the use of the three different phone companies' services throughout the corporation. Another obstacle was the cost of fiber optic lines.
Bernhardt said that Mike Gibson, the corporation's technology director, looked into using fiber optics as a solution. While being the easiest route to take, Gibson found it to be very expensive and would continue to add high yearly costs.
To avoid those high costs, it was decided to build communication towers. Unlike cell phone communication towers, these would only stand 100-150 feet in the air at each building and would have a dish antenna that would point to each tower, providing a point-to-point communication loop for each building.
But the major problem with the project is working with the Board of Zoning Appeals.
According to Bernhardt, the zoning board asked that the corporation pay for a consultant who would view the project and see if it met approval for a variance to be written. This consultant provided the Board of Zoning Appeals a favorable recommendation for the project, but the zoning board asked for a second opinion.
"So, rather than taking the opinion of this consultant that they chose and we agreed to pay, they've asked for a second opinion," Bernhardt said in reference the second consultant looking over the project.
Board member Nancy Wells asked if the county was paying for the second consultant. Bernhardt said the second consultant was contacted without discussing the idea with the corporation. It is unsure who is paying the consultant's fees at this time.
Vice President Mike Rissler said the board and the corporation needs the help of the community.
"What it amounts to is that one of the board members on the zoning board works for a competing company and he does not want this to happen," Rissler said.
All equipment needed for the project has been purchased, and the materials are one site and ready to go up.
"We're being held hostage here," Rissler said in reference to the zoning board not allowing the corporation to move forward.
One parent asked the board about attending the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting to see if their presence might help. Rissler said he was not sure if there would be enough time during the zoning board's meeting for public comment, but having the public attend might not be such a bad idea.
The South Putnam School Board urged residents to assist in moving the project forward.