Despite Mishaps, HomeWorks Progressing on Fiber Network
Utility marker flags, construction vehicles and lineworkers have become a visible sign of change across Portland as Tri-County HomeWorks continues their build out of a fiber optic network. The electric cooperative is partnering with the city to provide high-speed internet to city residents and businesses. This project builds on the cooperative's work providing fiber optic network connections to more than 23,000 members across 13 counties in mid-Michigan.
Currently the project is on pace for completion is spring/summer 2024. Recently Homeworks reported that the first zone called Westwood was finished and residents could sign up to be hooked up for service starting October 9th. Once a contract is signed most customers will be hooked up for fiber network service within 6-8 weeks. “...we are planning to begin hooking up individual customers in the Westwood zone before Thanksgiving,” says Chris O’Neill, Homeworks President and CEO. O’Neill says that while work in the Westwood zone is moving into the phase of contracting and hooking up customers, the next area, the Market zone, is nearly 90% finished and the Looking Glass zone is nearly 50% installed.
The project has not been without setbacks. In early June, a contractor working for HomeWorks hit a gas main near St. Patrick Catholic School causing the school to be evacuated on the last day of school for the summer. Much to the delight of students, the remaining exams that day were canceled and students were dismissed early. Elsewhere, on Grape St. contractors damaged gas and water hook ups to a residence. And of course, the entire community is aware of the September incident that cut off nearly all telecommunications in the city including not only internet but phone and cell networks when a line was damaged near the intersection of Rowe Avenue and Grand River Ave. That outage resulted in school closings for Portland Public Schools due to security concerns and disrupted businesses across the area that rely on network based communications.
“We have over eight decades of experience in the utility business, and we have earned a reputation around the state as a trusted, safe, reliable, and responsible provider, says O’Neill, “this is part of the reason the City of Portland chose to partner with us to achieve their goal of providing reliable broadband access to City residents and businesses. When it comes to working with underground infrastructure, safety is our top priority.” In compliance with state law, and the MISS DIG protocol, HomeWorks contractors requested all underground utilities be marked before they started work. In the cases where other utility lines have been struck and damaged, they have either been unmarked or mismarked resulting in what is called a “dig-in incident.”
“The frequency with which these mis-markings have occurred during the City of Portland project is a safety concern for us,” O’Neill says, “and we also understand the impact the incidents have had on City residents and businesses.” Homeworks has continued to work with the city and other utilities to investigate and prevent further incidents as the project continues. O’Neill tells the Beacon that the investigation has found that in each of the dig-in incidents that contractors acted in keeping with proper protocol with digging and burying lines. As the project moves forward to completion in the coming year, HomeWorks plans to keep working with their trusted contractors on installation and partnering with other utilities to prevent further incidents. “We are excited for the opportunity to provide Portland residents and businesses with a service as life changing as gigabit fiber internet,” O’Neill says, “and we are looking forward to seeing this project through to fruition!”
DISCLAIMER: When not writing for The Beacon, Jordan Smith teaches high school science at St. Patrick Catholic School.