Delays in Construction of Pocahontas Broadband ARC Project Discussed
Cory Nipper, an Engineer at Thompson and Litton, Inc (T&L) announced at last month’s Pocahontas Broadband Council meeting that the start of construction of the ARC Broadband Project has been delayed from the end of 2022 until July of 2024. At the August 11th Broadband Council meeting, Nipper provided clarifications about this delayed timeline. He explained that the new timeline is still being refined as he continues to seek ways to shave time from some of the forty or so steps that need to be completed before construction can begin.
He showed a screen shot of those project steps and their timelines, which we hope to obtain a copy of in the future.
As a result of these continuing efforts, Nipper said he has already been able to move that starting time for construction from July, 2024 back to December 23, 2023, and hopes he can find ways to shorten the timeline even more. He said if construction begins in December of 2023, it could be complete by May, 27, 2024. Nipper explained that the timeline for this project does not apply to any other broadband projects that the ISP CityNet may be doing in Pocahontas County, such as their expanding their fiber trunk lines down Route 219.
Brian Tew, T&L’s Vice President of Business Development and Marketing, who will be T&L’s new representative to the Broadband Council, said he is not sure where the original unrealistic estimate of the fourth quarter of 2023 being the start of the project construction came from.
Nipper explained that about five extra months was needed by one of their subcontractors who was doing required field-work for the project because of staffing shortages, COVID and bad weather conditions. He said that contractor started their field-work in March and will finish on August 19th, but should have been done a long time ago.
Melissa O’Brien from T&L added that CityNet has told her they wouldn’t have been prepared to start any earlier either.
Tew explained one of the steps that needs to be done is for First energy (Mon Power) coordinate with them by doing a pole survey, which includes include photos, GPS coordinates, pole tag numbers and measurements of every one of their electric poles that CityNet will be stringing fiber lines on. He said part of the field work that the T&L subcontractor did was go out and identify each of the electric poles CityNet will need to use in this project.
Tew said T&L is committed to avoiding any additional delays, hoping to shorten the time line some if possible.
Sarah Riley asked if these delays could raise the cost of the project due to inflation, and Amanda Smarr said hopefully not, since CityNet has already purchased and stockpiled the fiber-optic cables needed.
Cara Rose said she is preparing a press release about the September 15th Pocahontas County Broadband Summit meeting which will be held beginning at 5:30 pm at the Marlinton Municipal building, and also be broadcast via Zoom Meeting. She said this public meeting is not a complaint session, but an informational session explaining what the Broadband Counsel has done and intends to do to bring broadband to the entire county.
Regarding other funding projects, Amanda Smarr of Region 4 said that while we still have a pending application to the third round of the Department of Agriculture’s Reconnect Grant, we should apply for Round 4 of that grant when applications for it are announced in November. She said that so far the USDA has not ruled out funding Reconnect Grant Projects even if they are located in one of Frontier’s RDOF bis award areas, but that could still change.