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Mendo Sued Over Extension Cord

Background: Closed Session Agenda Item 3b for Wednesday, September 13 Board of Supervisors meeting: “Pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(1) - Conference with Legal Counsel - Existing Litigation: One Case - Your Town Online, Inc. v. County of Mendocino - Court Case No. 23CV00626.

The Court docs for Case #23CV00626 are so far pretty skimpy. However, the company has posted some background information about their complaints on their own website. We are not sure if the current lawsuit is about the subject matter im this letter, but it’s likely that it is:

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Letter sent to supervisor Ted Williams, 11//21/21, from Your Town On Line Inc, a Willits Internet Service Provider: 

“Hello, Thank you again for taking the time. 

The executive summary is, we are trying to get a simple electrical feed - on par with a toaster, vacuum, or coffee maker - to power a critically needed new broadband tower location out in the wilderness area - and are being obstructed by your staff for petty indefensible reasons that serve no legitimate public purpose at all. We have invested over $200,000 in this project, and have over 3gbps of new capacity to bring online to further bolster and enhance our services, and after more than a year of obstruction, we are now in the final phase of our project and the power feed is now required to finish. The required power is less than $75/mo and unfortunately there are individuals who appear to simply be on a personal jihad to personalize this so that my company specifically cannot have power access, while at the very same time this access is given to others without restriction. We have worked with county staff including Greg Glavitch and Walter Colon who both were on the ground and confirmed our request is easily doable and poses no risk at all. But the management - Doug Anderson, Janelle Rau - is bending to pressure from your county IT person Cody Snyder, to resist/hinder/obstruct/delay at every possible turn, and this is absolutely unacceptable. We need to act now before the main weather systems hit and the mountain is again inaccessible, forcing our customers (the voters and tax payers) to continue to wait for no purpose, for what otherwise is going to be a huge benefit to all. 

Longer summary: 

Your Town Online is a provider of Broadband here in Mendocino County and is the parent of Pacific Internet, and WillitsOnline. We have been here for 19 years and provide wireless, dsl, and fiber based broadband solutions to residential, commercial , and government users of all kinds, and operate a hybrid fiber/wireless network in the county to deliver our services to various areas of the county including Willits, Laytonville, Covelo, Potter Valley, Redwood Valley, Ukiah and Boonville. 

For various reasons including the need for greater capacity, and to address some reliability and maintenance challenges due to leasing locations from others, we designed and built a new broadband tower location on Big Signal peak, on one of the highest points in Mendocino county, to serve as a new data interchange point to replace our former location. This new tower development was approved by the US Forrest Service and development commenced in mid 2020. Late in development of the site, it was discovered that electrical utility power to this remote wilderness location was not purely PG&E, but was in fact PG&E carried over a few miles of power lines owned by the County of Mendocino. We researched this and for historical reasons, the county owns and operates these few miles of lines and is the only electric utility service in the area. It further is used to feed a building at Big Signal Peak, currently used by the county for some emergency communications equipment, and also, it feeds a commercial cell tower location just a few hundred yards away that is owned by Fisher Wireless Inc. 

We approached the county CEO in August 2020 to announce our plan for this new location and asked simply for a power feed explaining what we had found. In response, they went into panic mode and embarked on quite an inappropriate campaign of phone calls, letter writing and other communications fielding every kind of objection to our lease imaginable, taking pot shot after pot shot in an none-too-subtle effort to derail our development and attempt at securing a rejection of our lease application with the Forest service. These efforts ultimately went nowhere, and the county staff continued insisting on review upon review, and was given numerous opportunities to state its case, and each 'concern' was resoundingly debunked by the Forest Service (for example, county claimed that we couldn't put our tower there because it needed to be able to fly in helicopters for 'emergency service' to that exact spot, which actually is not permitted. They neatly lied about this supposed need and also failed to mention the shiny new taxpayer funded ATV that county purchased for exactly this purpose, among other whoppers). It became evident that County staff was actually working with another company, Cox Communications, and had a plan in mind already and had committed already to provide power to a new proposed 196' tower on this location and that obstructing us was simply to favor this other company that would then help the county with its own needs. However, the Forest Service stated we were the priority user because we applied first, and with all other concerns addressed, our lease/permit was issued. However, resistance to our project continued and we received very little in the way of responsive communication from County to our numerous requests to provide that simple electrical feed. 

In continuation of this obstruction, County provided us with a copy of a letter from PG&E which seemed to drop into their laps and discusses 'private power lines' and construed the content of the letter to imply that NO additional electrical service may be plugged into any service receptacle anywhere, and used this trumped up misrepresentation to then claim we would just have to wait for next year or the year after when the lines would revert to PG&E ownership. They had this letter for 3 months before providing it to us, and then when we called the representative who wrote it, we were able to quickly confirm that the letter references new power drops off of this private line that involve new transformers and 'utility loads', NOT simple household type electrical devices connecting to electrical sockets at a location. We wrote back to county staff again to provide the clarification to disprove this misinterpretation and then were given some dates to 'discuss' the matter further, and then.... nothing. And now, here is is the end of November 2021, your staff has made it clear that they don't WANT to provide this petty electrical connection - even tho they provide it to others - and have expended significant efforts to obstruct us and make the most wild incorrect and downright bizarre claims in order to support this position. 

As I said, we are now $200,000 into this project and we are unable to continue to delay here. It is simply unfortunate that this one thing is under the control of county, because County is not nor has ever been a good partner and has only ever used its position to obstruct business and development here in Mendocino county. I have engaged every process I know of, and all backchannels I have access to, without success, and unfortunately I now am up against some very real constraints that may force my hand here. Your staff is completely out of line and there needs to be review.”

(ED NOTE: According to on-line information, Your Town On-Line Inc., is owned by Mr. Michael Ireton and is based in Willits.)

One Comment

  1. Lazarus September 15, 2023

    Mike Ireton has a history with Mendocino County. Years ago, he tried to bring them into the 21st century. Naturally, CEO Angelo knew better than the professionals, and the lame County TI people didn’t like getting told what they should be doing. Have you ever tried to navigate the County websites, find the BoS Youtubes, etc.? Totally incompetent…
    When Measure B was in the news, the TI people/CEO Angelo demanded and got 35K for a 10K sound system to hear what the gaggle had to say.
    It’s all rigged against anyone who pushes back.
    Town On-Line Inc. may never get the extension cord, and the locals who want quality internet get screwed because of it.
    Be well and good luck.

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