Salisbury files suit against company that installed Fibrant cables

Published 2:17 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2016

By Amanda Raymond and Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY —  The city of Salisbury filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the company that installed the cables for Fibrant, the city’s fiber optic network.

In the complaint, the city says The Atlantic Group violated its contract with the city by not completing the construction work by the time agreed upon and failing to locate fiber optic cable lines with enough ground clearance and distance from power lines.

Andrew Rodenbough of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP will be representing the city in the lawsuit, filed in Rowan County Superior Court.

City officials say they are seeking to recover funds to correct the work, estimated to cost more than $1 million. The complaint does not specify a dollar amount sought other than an amount “in excess of $25,000.”

“We weren’t moving along as fast as we needed to move, and we just got to a point where we had tried every route that we could,” Kent Winrich, director of broadband and infrastructure services, said.

Winrich said it is unclear how much the city has spent trying to get the problem fixed.

According to court documents, the Atlantic Group was contracted to complete most of the work within two years from receiving a notice to proceed from the city. The Atlantic Group received the notice around Dec. 17, 2008, so a substantial amount of the work was supposed to be completed by Dec. 17, 2010.

“The concerns with Atlantic’s work do not affect the performance of the fiber optic system, which is not addressed in the lawsuit,” a city news release said. “Fibrant has delivered quality high-speed broadband connections to city residents and businesses through the fiber optic network for more than four years. This service will not be affected by the lawsuit or the network repairs that will occur.”

The complaint also includes claims against Atlantic’s parent company Atlantic Engineering Group Inc., and the insurance company that bonded the work, Safeco Insurance Company of America.

“We’re not looking for all sorts of punishments, we’re just looking to get things taken care of properly,” Winrich said.

Last year, the city determined that Atlantic Engineering Group did not follow the National Electric Safety Code when the company first built the system. Duke Energy sent the city a letter in July 2011 stating that it was in violation of a pole attachment agreement.

The letter estimated that 842 fiber optic line attachments to utility poles were “at-risk” or out of compliance, though John Sofley, assistant city manager, said there was no exact number of all of the potential out-of-compliance issues. Sofley said the problems were due to the Atlantic Engineering Group’s work during installation of the system.

No lawsuit was filed at that time.

Another contract breach mentioned in the lawsuit filed Tuesday is that the Atlantic Group failed to give the city a way to easily monitor and track system performance through an integrated data management system.

Representatives of the Atlantic Engineering Group could not be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.