$140K high-tech plan to connect Amherst city buildings with fiber optic cable

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com




Look for $140,000 worth of fiber optic lines to go up around Amherst starting mid-summer.

City council is poised to approve installation of a 27,000-foot high-speed data loop to connect six buildings: town hall, the police station, wastewater treatment plant, the San Springs building (utilities offices), street garage, and fire station.

Fiber cables will be mounted to utility poles in most areas, though some will have to be buried underground.

There are no plans to connect the electric department or Maude Neiding Park with fiber. Nor will the Sandstone Office on Aging be included because “the future of that building is in the wind a little bit,” said mayor Mark Costilow.

Make no mistake — the fiber connections will not stretch to your home or business. You won’t be able to buy a high-speed Internet package from Amherst city hall — at least not anytime soon.

“There is no intention to have our own Internet or cable system. This is solely for the use of the city,” Costilow said.

But he left the door open to lease bandwidth out to local companies sometime down the road.

For now, the goal is to create a network that allows city offices to share data quickly and securely.

It’s about more than just providing access to building permit and property map records. The fiber ring path is designed to connect to the wireless repeaters used to transmit water meter readings from homes and businesses all over town.

Right now, those transmissions are done via cellular tech. Connecting the repeaters to fiber lines will mean thousands of dollars in savings each month.

“Over a 10-year period, it’s going to be significant savings,” said Costilow.

The project is the second phase of a huge tech upgrade for the city.

The first is the creation of a data center for servers, now being installed at the Amherst police station on North Lake Street.

The entire system will be overseen by a full-time IT manager — a new position created by city council this year.

Costilow plans to appoint former city councilman Steve Bukovac to the job by the month’s end, provided the Civil Service Commission agrees. A panel will review the candidate’s qualifications March 15.

“His love for the city and vision for where this needs to go — I can’t imagine interviewing 1,000 people and finding someone more qualified than him,” the mayor said.

Bukovac is president of RNK Group, a digital marketing franchise and IT support company headquartered on Milan Avenue.

The firm helps companies market their services online, offering Web development solutions, search engine optimization, email marketing, server installation and troubleshooting, network infrastructure support, and user training.

Bukovac’s resume, stretching back to 1983, includes decades of technical experience.

He resigned from city council last month to apply for the IT manager position, which carries a $65,000 per year starting salary.

Amherst Democrats appointed Brian Dembinski to fulfill the rest of Bukovac’s term through Dec. 31.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.



By Jason Hawk