Members of the Houston City Council made several decisions Monday related to its fiber-to-the-home internet system under construction.
The council heard from James Lightfoot, of ACRS Telecommunications Consulting and Engineering Services, the Oklahoma City firm that acts as its consultant.
Trans-Tel Central LLC, a Norman, Okla., firm, had earlier been hired to string fiber for a project phase. The council also approved the company installing a piece of equipment that prevents the wiring from vibrating during periods of high wind. The cost is about $7,100. Moving forward, the city’s electrical department will install them.
The council approved hiring the company for another phase around the Houston Memorial Airport if its pricing is consistent with its earlier proposal. Phase 4 will complete the final leg of the project, which Lightfoot said still appears to be on target for a price tag around $2 million. The city is using reserves to complete the system, which offers up to 1 gig in speed and is seen as a marketing tool to attract residents and new business to the community.
The city will soon receive its first payment of $210,058 under the American Rescue Plan Act. City Administrator Scott Avery said one allowable use would be to pay itself back for expenditures for the broadband project. A second equal amount will arrival within a year. The council decided it will study the matter further before making a decision.
The council also approved a payment of about $12,000 from a firm that did phase one work, but exceeded its contract timetable by 16 days.
In other matters, members:
•Heard from Gayla Campbell, a downtown business owner, about the need for more parking on Grand Avenue. She said part of the issue results from tenants living at the Piney Inn parking in front of the business. She also highlighted concerns with speeding and the conditions of some buildings downtown. She suggested speed bumps might help. Campbell said other merchants share her concern. The city will examine the matter.
•Heard a report on a paving project that occurred last week at Rutherford Park. The city earlier purchased paving equipment that will allow it to make improvements in-house. Mayor Willie Walker and Avery praised the effort that saw the materials trucked in from Rolla and the city using its own paver. The next area targeted will be Quaker Street and Westwood Drive.
The mayor said the in-house work saves funds, and Avery said he would recommend the city do its work in-house and not contract for any asphalt overlay work in 2022.
•Heard that the city will no longer send out correspondence to residents that is not on letterhead and includes a signature. The discussion was sparked by a recent letter to utility customers highlighting payment procedures stemming from extreme weather in February. Some residents thought the letter might be fraudulent.
•Approved a recommendation to name Amy Smith and Breonna Woodmansee to vacant seats on the Houston Park Board.
•Heard councilman Ross Richardson ask for all of the council to respond to an earlier call for input on a revised policy on grass mowing that will go into effect next spring. A third council workshop on the matter will be held once all the council responds, Richardson said.
•Received a financial report on the revenues and expenditures for the first two-thirds of this year.
•Learned that Public Water Supply District 3 has established an office at the Houston Visitors Center.
•Adjourned into a lengthy closed session.