Council hears about fiber optic options

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Plainville Town Council held a special workshop to hear information regarding the possible installation of a fiber optics network.

In June 2018, director of information technology, Kevin Ross, explained that Plainville leases fiber on a 20 year contract. That fiber connects the municipal building, the Board of Education, and all of the schools to the fiber, which is housed at the high school.

There is a town-owned underground fiber housed in Town Hall that is utilized by the police department and library, and the firehouse is on a loaned fiber from the public safety network to the police department. Ross said all locations have internet access via the Connecticut Education Network, which is housed at Plainville High School.

Currently, Parks and Recreation, the senior center, the water pollution control center, roadways, buildings and grounds, and police repeaters are not on a fiber network.

Town manager Robert Lee said there had been discussion with the Water Pollution Control staff and engineers about the benefits of connecting eight of the nine pump stations, which pump wastewater in low areas to a height from which it can flow by gravity, to a fiber optic system.

Lee explained that currently, the town rents a phone line to each pump station. When an alarm goes off, it uses that phone line to transmit information, but it is unable to tell you what type of alarm is being sounded, or what the problem could be. In order to know which specific alarm has been triggered, “We’d have to rent more phone lines in order to differentiate between the different types of alarms.”

Ross said connecting all of the pump stations would be the majority of the build out, and would cover the majority of town. Some additional town facility lines would need to be added, but in many of those cases, he said, it would be connecting the facility to a pole and fiber line that already exists in that area. “The cost is minimal to do that, especially downtown areas,” said Ross.

Joseph Alosso, superintendent of the Plainville Water Pollution Control Facility, said the reliability, dependability and resilience of fiber optics is important to the WPC staff.

Alosso said fiber optics are not susceptible to inclement weather conditions, which can damage data transmission, and because fiber optic internet is made from glass and does not use electricity, it is less likely to go down during a power outage. Fiber optics would “give the town enhanced operations at the treatment plant and at the pump stations,” as it would allow for remote monitoring, “allowing us to see what is occurring during an alarm event, as well as remote control of the pump stations, generators, and controllers at each station.”

“This has the potential to save the town overtime costs, and use up less of the employees time,” said Alosso. “From our standpoint, we see fiber optic internet as an absolute benefit for the wastewater facility, for the operation of the facility, and maintenance of the pump stations, as well as the rest of the town.”

Fiber optic internet transmits data via light, which Alosso said “ensures absolute security of the information” as there is no way to listen to the “electromagnetic energy” that would leak through the cables used in older technologies.

The largest build out project would be connecting Toffolon Elementary School and the Middle School of Plainville. But, there is one school that is technically a part of phase one, “because the high school is where” the internet connection and data center are located, said Ross, who estimated that it would cost $48,000 “to do just the school builds.”

Currently, said Lee, the total annual cost for phone and internet services for the town is $39,000. Over 20 years, the average life of a fiber, the town would spend approximately $950,000 to run the current internet and phone services – this number was calculated using a 2 percent increase to allow for changing prices.

“The cost of bringing fiber to all of the town and sewer facilities is in the area of $762,292,” said Lee.

To date, Lee said, the town has committed approximately $37,000. When putting together the budget, 10 percent contingency was put aside for the construction portion of the project, approximately $1,046,000. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection would only accept 5 percent contingency, approximately $523,000, as part of the grant loan project.

“The project has been underway for several months now and we haven’t seen too many change orders or unexpected things that have come up, so we don’t anticipate that we’re going to use the 5 percent contingency that DEEP will allow,” said Lee. “We could come significantly under that amount, which from the town staff’s perspective leaves $523,000 in authorization that’s available. If it’s not spent that means we will borrow from the state less than what we originally intended.”

No action was taken.