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[News brief published July 15] The Rancho Murieta Association board voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a 20-year lease that will bring fiber connections to the community’s homes, offering faster broadband internet and cable TV at a lower cost to subscribers.

Jim Moore, board president, said fiber to the home “will make Rancho Murieta one of the elite communities.”  Internet download speeds will quadruple, he said. He characterized the package of services as “more (TV) programming, faster speeds, and we’re going to pay less.”

The lease is with Greenfield Communications of Dana Point, Orange County.  It serves 9,000 customers in 10 communities with its nearest operation in Lincoln Crossing, Placer County.

The lease takes effect Sept. 1.  Greenfield says it needs 18 months to design and build the system. At Tuesday’s meeting Greg Vorster, RMA general manager, said parts of the new system would be launched as they’re completed, which means the new and old systems would be running in tandem for a time.

Greenfield plans to offer the DISH satellite service as its TV component.

Under the terms of the agreement, RMA can access the network to install and maintain a community camera surveillance system.

The board moved ahead with the lease without making changes in two agreements that don't allow the RMA to operate the cable system on a for-profit basis. Earlier this month, Vorster explained to the Communications Committee that the board had been waiting for development representative John Sullivan to agree to amendments to the Mutual Benefit Agreement and the cable agreement that would permit for-profit operation.

"Basically, the board got tired of waiting for that to happen," Vorster said. "… We were trying to amend those agreements to where RMA could actually show a profit. After talking to the (RMA) attorney, it's OK for Greenfield to show a profit as long as we don't show a profit. So without John signing those agreements, we have to do this as a break-even. We can't show a profit off of the lease."

To accomplish this, Vorster said the $8-a-month maintenance fee members will pay will be offset by a monthly lease payment equivalent to 17.5 percent of gross sales generated by the network for customers within Rancho Murieta. Currently RMA members are paying $3.15 for the cable system in their monthly dues. This will drop to $2.05 the first year of operations under the lease and continue dropping each year until it's "revenue neutral" by Year 4 or 5, Vorster said.  

"So eventually what will happen … members won't be paying anything (in monthly dues). It will all be offset," said Bob Lucas, chair of the Communications Committee at its July 8 meeting. "We can run it how we want as long as we don't show a profit."

At the board meeting, Vorster said under the lease arrangement, the cost of basic TV service will drop from $39 to $32 a month; Internet speeds will increase and the cost will go from $32.49 to $27 per month. "We see this as being a win for the membership," he said.

"It brings us into the future," Moore said of the fiber-to-the-home system.

The only thing that won't be making the trip to the future is Channel 5, the RMA channel. "That goes away," Lucas said at the Communications Committee meeting. When some committee members said they hadn't watched Channel 5 in a long time, Jim Moore said he thought that was true of "pretty much everyone," and Lucas remarked,  "I don't mind if I'm not broadcast on TV."

Greenfield Communications CEO Mike Powers is offering the option of continuing to record RMA board meetings and making the videos available on the RMA web site.

Related coverage:

Support requested for newspaper

In public comments, neighbor Ted Hart asked what the RMA can do to support the River Valley Times, which has asked readers to send cash to help it address a difficult business environment.

President Jim Moore and Director Sam Somers Sr. said they’ve already sent checks to the newspaper to help.  Beyond that, Moore said it isn’t appropriate to spend RMA dues money.

Presentation on deer, ticks and Lyme disease

President Jim Moore announced that Dr. Kent Fowler, the animal health branch chief for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, will speak on "Lyme disease, ticks and the deer population in Rancho Murieta" at the Aug. 19 board meeting.  Fowler is a resident, Moore said.

Upcoming events announced

Assistant General Manager Danise Hetland announced several upcoming events:

  • A night ride will take place Friday, July 25, from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Riverview Park pump track. The event is put on by the group of volunteers who built the track and the Boy Scouts.
  • A bus trip to San Francisco for the Dodgers vs Dodgers game is scheduled for July 27 with a departure time of 1 p.m. from the North Gazebo and a cost of $58 per person.
  • The next RMA bingo event takes place August 23 at the Summerfest carnival at Stonehouse Park.

In brief

  • Plans for the new North Gate have been submitted to the county for review and permitting, General Manager Greg Vorster said, and the RMA expects to receive a revised project estimate this week. The RMA is also waiting for the specifications to be finalized, Vorster said. Construction is expected to take three to four  months, from September to the end of the year, Vorster said in an interview earlier this month.
  • The board approved a proposal from Associated Engineering Consultants for engineering services related to street maintenance ($6,875) and resurfacing the Riverview Park tennis courts ($4,480) , with funding to come from reserves.
  • Jim Moore was approved as chair of the Nominating Committee. Candidate applications are available at the RMA Building and due September 11. The seats on the board that are up for election this fall are held by Tim Maybee, Bob Lucas and Sam Somers Sr.
  • The mowing portion of  the annual weed abatement effort has been completed,  Maintenance Manager Rod Hart reported, and additional work is anticipated on some previously mown areas. Hart updated parks projects, saying work is progressing on a shade gazebo at the new spray park on the South and an irrigation system for the Escuela practice field at Stonehouse Park on the North. He added that the soccer field has been over-seeded with bermuda grass and some worn turf areas have been patched with sod.

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Updated to full story

This story has been expanded from a news brief to the final version.

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