City in power struggle with AEP


By Andrea Cordle
Southwest Editor

Grove City Council approved funding to construct a municipal fiber optic network, but they were not happy about it.

Last year, council agreed to spend $4.7 million for the design and construction of a municipal fiber optic network.

At the Aug. 7 meeting, council voted to spend an additional $2.7 million on the network because costs from American Electric Power (AEP) were substantially more than the initial estimates.

“We are being held at gunpoint by AEP,” said councilman Ted Berry. “They’ve got us under the hammer. If we don’t pay, it holds up the project.”

Todd Hurley, director of information systems for the city, said he met with AEP officials in November regarding costs for the fiber optic network. Hurley received a verbal estimate of approximately $800,000 to attach the communication lines to AEP poles.

The city then prepared budgets for the project based on that estimate.

However, in May of this year, Hurley said he again met with AEP officials who told him the estimate was low and it would cost approximately $2.3 million for the city to attach and adjust its communication lines to AEP poles.

“To accomplish the project, we need to use their poles,” said Hurley.

According to Hurley, the project will use more than 1,750 poles and the majority of those belong to AEP.

The municipal fiber optic network would increase capacity from one gigabyte per second to 10 gigabytes per second and would provide connectivity to the southwest quadrant of Franklin County. It would provide enhanced network services for the city, as well as the South-Western City Schools District, Jackson Township, Pleasant Township and Prairie Township. The city has memorandums of understandings with the district and municipalities to share the service and costs of the network. The city also has a letter of intent with the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO).

Councilman Steve Bennett said the project moves the city forward and will improve marketability.

“You have to spend money to make money,” said Bennett.

Berry said council does not have an issue with supporting the project, the issue is with AEP.

“How do they get away with this,” he asked.

Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage said the municipal fiber optic network is needed to keep the city competitive, but said he was very disgruntled with the power company.

“The bottom line is we did not get a written quote last year, we got a verbal estimate,” said Stage. “In a way, we are being held hostage.”

Council president Roby Schottke said he would like the city to file a complaint against AEP with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). He also asked the city’s law director to look into possible legal action against the power company.

According to Katie Grayem, director AEP Ohio customer experience and communications, the city may have been provided a verbal estimate of the average cost for the engineering study per pole, but a final figure would not be available until an engineering study was complete.

“The main cost incurred for these types of projects, however, is the work required to make the pole ready for the additional attachments requested by the city. We do not provide a cost estimate for this work until the engineering study has been completed,” said Grayem. “The importance of this study is to ensure the reliable delivery of electricity and the safety of our employees who must maintain the structural integrity of our system.”

Grayem said AEP Ohio has reached out to the city and are committed to working more collaboratively in the management of future projects.

Council also approved legislation to finance $4.6 million in bonds so city leaders could reimburse the general fund that was used for the municipal fiber optic network.

The city received a $2 million low-interest loan from the Franklin County Infrastructure Bank for the project.



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