Powellink finished

Posted 1/27/09

Excitement was the reaction of many city leaders involved with the project.

“I'm just elated,” said Councilman Jim Hillberry. “This is a product for the future of Powell.”

The technology sets Powell apart among rural …

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Powellink finished


Fiber-optic service to be available to 95 percent of homes in city limits A citywide fiber-optic network envisioned by city leaders for more than a decade now is a reality. On Monday, the remaining two zones of Powellink were released to Tri County Telephone (TCT), the company providing service.“Today has been a long time coming,” City Administrator Zane Logan said Monday.

Excitement was the reaction of many city leaders involved with the project.

“I'm just elated,” said Councilman Jim Hillberry. “This is a product for the future of Powell.”

The technology sets Powell apart among rural American communities, said Powellink Project Manager Ernie Bray.

“The infrastructure is now in Powell for it to be globally competitive,” Bray said.

In the last century, critical infrastructure such as roads, telephone lines and electricity were established for developing cities and towns. Now, Powell has the infrastructure for the next century, Bray said.

“Powell is ahead of a lot of communities in the country,” he said. “Powell found a way to do it.”

The network was finished months after the completion date stipulated in the contract. Since Nov. 5, the general contractor of the project, MasTec, Inc. has been in the penalty phase. Mid-States Consultants, an engineering firm, managed the overall project to make sure it was done to specifications.

The Northwest Joint Powers Board executives, including Mayor Scott Mangold and Logan, and others will meet in the next few weeks to determine the cost and penalties of the delay, Bray said.

The city first began talking about a high-speed communications project 13 years ago during a workshop sponsored by the Powell Valley Economic Development Alliance. Mark Payler, a local educator, collaborated with Dave Reetz, who then headed the Powell Valley Economic Development Alliance, to present a “Powell Digital City” project model.

“We were fortunate to have Mark Payler provide his leadership to us back in 1996,” Reetz said. “Any small city needs to listen to visionaries ... the effect of this vision during the past 13 years has been astounding.”

About three years ago, the city started pursuing funding for the fiber-to-the-home network.

Mangold said from the start, the city did not want to place the cost of the project on residents.

“A large part of this whole project was putting a funding model together,” he said. “We did not want to spend any taxpayer dollars.”

The $4.9-million bond project was a joint venture between the city of Powell and the Northwest Joint Powers Board, along with private sector partners.

“We didn't use any city money,” Mangold said.

The network, reaching 95 percent of homes and businesses in the city, provides high-speed Internet, TV and telephone service.

Mangold said he hopes the network will help existing businesses while also being a beacon to attract outside businesses owners to Powell. That may take time.

“I think it's going to take a little bit of time for people in the community to get into it and for businesses to know it's available,” Hillberry said.

Logan said he is thankful to be completed with the project after the years it took to fund and the months it's taken to construct.

“I always felt like the boy crying wolf,” he said.

Logan added that, while the network is completed, repairs will be done in the spring to ensure that lawns, sidewalks, roads and alleys torn up in the construction are restored.

“There will be enough money retained for repairs,” he said. “It will get done.”

Logan, Hillberry and Mangold all are on the waiting list to have fiber-optic service provided at their homes.

Mangold said he supported the project partly because he felt obligated to see what was available for the citizens of Powell.

“If I didn't give Powell an advantage over another town, I wouldn't be much of a mayor,” he said.

Hillberry said he expects it will be something everyone — businesses, residents, educators — benefits from.

“We'll look back one day and wonder why we didn't anticipate it sooner,” Hillberry said.