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Q-Life to retire debt three years early

— If all goes well, the “Q-Life” network in The Dalles is set to retire its debt three years ahead of schedule.

The system of fiber optic telecommunication cables, a joint venture by the City of The Dalles and Wasco County, is currently projected to finish paying off all of its debt during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Garrett Chrostek, an administrative fellow, told the Wasco County Board of Commissioners during a recent meeting that early debt payment was one of nine financial priorities that the proposed 2013-2014 budget supports.

“We had a good year. Revenues were up and expenses were flat … This is based on a 5 percent increase in revenue which is consistent with the past,” Chrostek said.

He said the exact date during 2014-2015 that the final debt payment is made depends on what the city and county decide about enterprise zone funding. Currently Q-Life receives an annual payment of $50,000 from the enterprise zone payments that Google makes in lieu of property taxes. Six of 15 agreed-upon yearly payments have been made so far.

However, some city and county officials have voiced the opinion that since its creation in 2003 Q-Life has become so financially stable that it doesn’t need the money anymore. The city and county have agreed to set up a committee to review the enterprise zone disbursements each year and the county commission has voted to stop the payments to Q-Life now.

“We could funnel some of these funds to agencies that need more help,” said county commission chair Rod Runyon. “Q-Life is doing really well.”

Other than the enterprise zone revenue, Q-Life is self-sustaining through user fees. In addition to maintenance of its system it also kicks in money for projects like the expansion of free wi-fi in The Dalles.

Commissioner Scott Hege pointed out a 10-year budget projection for Q-Life that shows an increase in revenue from $657,479 to $842,622 over the next decade, with an increase in operating expenses from $273,222 to $359,751.

“It goes to show that Q-Life has a pretty reasonable outlook for generating a reasonable amount of money in the future,” he said.

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