Leaders break ground on new Opelika Power facility

“a big, big day for the city of Opelika. It’s important for our future.” Mayor Gary Fuller

By: CHRIS ANTHONY | Opelika-Auburn News
Published: June 26, 2012

A chorus of beeps and thuds from construction crews carried through the air Tuesday morning as Opelika city leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Opelika Power Services facility off Fox Run Parkway.

Site work is well under way on the $3.7 million facility, which leaders say will be an integral part of the fiber-optic network being built throughout the city. In addition to housing the administrative office and warehouse, the facility will also be the home of Opelika Power Services’ fiber hub.

The fiber network will allow the city to offer smart-grid technology as well as cable, Internet and phone service, which Opelika voters approved in August 2010.

“It’s a big, big day for the city of Opelika,” Mayor Gary Fuller said. “It’s important for our future.”

In total, the fiber project will cost about $41 million and is being funded by $28 million in revenue warrants and an approximately $14 million line of credit, Fuller said.

He said the city anticipates breaking even on the project no longer than five years after bringing telecommunications customers online. After that, Fuller said, the telecommunications services would be a profit center for Opelika.

By adding competition to Charter Communications and Knology, which plans to expand to Opelika, Fuller said the venture will ultimately drive cable prices down as well as improve customer service.

“Part of the problem with Charter is if we get aggravated, we don’t have anybody to reach out and touch because they’re not here,” he said.

Beth Ringley, interim director of Opelika Power Services, said about 90 percent of the fiber is installed throughout the city and most of the fiber should be in the ground by the end of the summer.

Ringley, a partner at The Motive Group, began serving as interim director shortly after Derek Lee left the position in January following unsuccessful contract negotiations with the city. The Motive Group has contracted with the city to manage the fiber project.

“It’s never easy for a staff to have a new director in the middle of a huge project like this, but everyone has come to the table and gotten more involved than ever,” Ringley said. “… I think we’ve made great progress.”

Fuller said the city has interviewed two finalists for the department’s full-time director position and should have a new director named in a few weeks.

The city expects to bring its first telecommunications customers online sometime in the first quarter of 2013, Fuller said.

To see videos from Tuesday’s groundbreaking, visit www.bit.ly/LOuY6A and www.bit.ly/LN0sIx.