The voters of Hawarden, Iowa have spoken - one of Iowa's first municipal telecommunications utilities will remain in the hands of citizens.
A referendum was held yesterday to approve the sale of HiTec, the city telecommunications utility, to Premiere Communications of Sioux Center. Unofficial results released by the Sioux County Auditors Office show that just 39.3% of the voters approved of the sale, well short of the simple majority needed to move forward.
City leadership in Hawarden had soured on continuing to run HiTec which was among the first Iowa municipal telecoms and the first to provide telephone service. They even advocated for a change in state law that allowed them to obtain only one appraisal for the hybrid fiber-coaxial network.
The City had received two bids for the purchase, if authorized by voters. Long Lines, the company that Hawarden has used for an operating partner since its launch, bid $3.15 million for the network. Premiere, which already competes with HiTEC in Hawarden, bid $2.75 million.
Patty Anderson, the former Hawarden Telecommunications Manager during the 1990's, wrote an empassioned letter to the editor of the Hawarden Independent/Ireton Examiner in advance of the vote.
If HiTec is sold, you will never get it back. You will be left with one company to rely on forever. DON’T APPROVE THE SALE OF HITEC — VOTE NO SEPTEMBER 14! -- Patty Anderson, former HiTec Telecommunications Manager
Hawarden is not the only Iowa municipal facing the threat of dissolution. A small cadre of critics in Harlan are forcing a vote authorizing the sale of that community's municipal fiber-to-the-home network in November.
The Harlan ballot issue reads as follows: “Should the Board of Trustees of Harlan Municipal Utilities, City of Harlan, in the County of Shelby, State of Iowa, be authorized to discontinue and dispose of the municipally-owned communications utility by sale?” Even if that referendum receives the requisite 50% it does not mandate a sale, and HMU Board members have indicated no interest in removing the network from public ownership.
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