Faster internet service may be coming to Vassar Township, and soon.

That’s one result expected from the township board’s April 13 decision to approve an amended franchise agreement for Thumb Electric Cooperative.

The Pigeon-based energy cooperative wants to get into high-speed fiber-optic internet service. It received permission to provide such service to areas of the Thumb through a November Federal Communications Commission auction. 

“That won’t make us the only operator,” Dallas Braun, Thumb Electric general manager, said. “There can be competition.”

A $22.5 million grant will help fund some of the fiber-optic work. Thumb Electric will be borrowing about $75 million to pay for the rest.

Connecting all of the Thumb to the service will take a few years, Braun said, but Vassar Township would be part of phase 1 of the construction process. Thumb Electric also is permitted to extend the service to both its customers and those of DTE Energy in the township. That, Braun said, should include all of the township, though he wasn’t certain.

Because of that mix, however, the early work will be along Thumb Electric utility poles to its existing customers. 

Thumb Electric is establishing a facility at M-24 and M-46 to house the construction equipment that will be used in the process.

Braun said Thumb Electric hopes to start construction this year, but he wasn’t comfortable promising they’d have work in the township completed this year. But it should be done within two years.

“If we don’t have things done within two years,” he said, “then something terribly has gone wrong.”

The board also:

  • Amended the 2020-21 budget to move $200 into deputy clerk wages, $1,000 into township hall and property repair and maintenance, $2,000 into planning commission salaries, add $1,100 to administrative assistant and take $4,300 from the contingency fund to cover the costs.
  • Learned work needs to be done along the Spears Drain, with the $15,000-or-less cost being split between the city of Vassar, Vassar Township, the people who live along the drain and the Saginaw, Tuscola and Huron Railroad. The total cost will be under $5,000 for the township, Supervisor Bruce Foether said, and probably closer to $2,500.
  • Applied for a Michigan Township Association Par Plan grant to fund lights for the township hall parking lot and security cameras at the township hall. There would be cameras inside and outside of the building. The interior ones would be on only when the building was vacant. The outside ones would be on all day. The township will have to match any grant funds.
  • Offered MTA training programs to township officials. All of them will be online programs again this year.
  • Learned a business wants to build in the township but will be within 200 feet of the city of Vassar sewer and water lines, so the city wants them to connect to those systems. The township is seeking a legal opinion on whether connection to city services is required.
  • Accepted Christina Dawe’s resignation from the board of review and parks and recreation committee because she has moved to Saginaw. Foether proposed changing the parks and recreation committee to five members from seven. Only three people attended the committee’s last meeting, which was not enough to host a legal meeting. Committee chairman Russ Fall said there has been a high turnout among the committee members over the recent years and while he prefers seven members over five, he thinks having a smaller number might allow the group to get more work done. Parks and recreation committee members also had promised last year to handle the maintenance of the township park across the road from the township hall. Those members often have multiple roles to fill. The township also needs people to serve on the zoning board of appeals as well as the board of review and parks and recreation committee.
  • Approved a request from the parks and recreation committee to purchase a 12-by-20-foot storage shed for the park. Clerk Debra Pounds voted against it.
  • Is looking for volunteers to help May 22 loading tires from the used tire collection.
  • Extended the contract of assessor Debby Valentine until June 30, so her new contract will start with the township’s new fiscal year.
  • Learned DTE Energy plans to add a new substation on Sheridan Road.
  • Is looking into having an ordinance governing golf cart use on township roads.