Council retreat will look at future of fiber optic

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Part of Salisbury City Council’s annual retreat Thursday and Friday will concentrate on what the future might hold in the fiber-optic cable business.
As part of its schedule Friday, council will have a panel discussion from 9:45 to 11 a.m. on “Inventing a Brighter Future with Fiber.”
Guest panelists will be Terry Huval, director of utilities for Lafayette, La.; James Salter, chief strategy officer with Atlantic Engineering Group; and Don Cope, president and chief executive officer of Dalton (Ga.) Utilities.
Huval later will be guest speaker at Friday’s luncheon at City Hall. His topic will be “Rolling Out Fiber to the Home; Adopting a Winning Strategy for Your Community.”
Lafayette Utilities System has 47 people working on establishing fiber-optic cable in that city. The project includes technicians, engineers, customer service representatives and analysts.
The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette reports the fiber-to-the-home project has more than $70 million in contracts with 38 different companies, ranging from construction to installation to technical services.
“The path has not always been smooth,” a Daily Advertiser editorial said Jan. 29, “but the Lafayette Utilities System and the Durel administration have been victorious in regard to legal scuffles and citizen opposition.”
The editorial adds, “While generating revenue is essential to paying off the bonds and keeping up with constantly changing technology, revenue is not the basic goal.
“Competition will result in better rates, but as desirable as that is, it is still not the focal point of the administration vision. The vision is one of technological leadership that will result in explosive economic growth.”
Salisbury has embarked on a $30 million fiber-to-the-home effort, to be financed by revenue bonds issued late last year. Atlantic Engineering Group is the contractor for construction of the Salisbury project, which will include a new $4 million city facility ó a Customer Service Center ó on South Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue at Harris Street.
Venues for council’s 24th annual goal-setting retreat will include the Rowan Museum at 202 N. Main St., City Hall at 217 S. Main St. and the Heritage Room at 118 E. Council St.
This year’s theme is “Embracing Community Challenges, Discovering Our Opportunities.”
Council uses part of the retreat to modify, delete or add goals, while also devising a one-year tactical plan.
Some specific items council will discuss include a fleet strategic plan, customer service, a GIS strategic plan and the budget pressures the city will face in 2009-2010.
Otherwise, the retreat will be devoted to discussions focused on community collaboration and regional visioning.
Suzanne Morse of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change will be the Thursday luncheon speaker. Her topic: “Building Community through Collaboration.” Morse also will take part in a council discussion on “smart communities” titled, “Working Together, Building on Community Strengths, Growing Leaders and Practicing Democracy.”
In addition, on Thursday morning, Rowan County United Way Director Bob Lippard, Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Director Robert Van Geons and Assistant to the City Manager Doug Paris will take part in an hourlong discussion titled, “Inventing a Brighter Future ó Discovering Natural Linkages for Community Collaboration.”
Thursday afternoon, Al Sharp, executive director of the Centralina Council of Governments, and Rebecca Yarbrough, assistant director of member services for COG, will take part in a regional visioning discussion with Salisbury City Council.