Morristown Utilities Commission has agreed to partner with Newport Utilities in the effort to implement Phase One of its Fiber Optic Broadband plan.

On Thursday, during the commission’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting, a unanimous vote passed the resolution for an interlocal government agreement to enable telecom service to the NU board, the first step toward the partnership.  

“This is hopefully going to be a win-win for both Newport and MUC, that we would provide services for them to put a three-way package into at least part of their service area,” MUC Chairman George McGuffin said. ‘‘This is essentially the first step, as far as agreements.”

The NU board recently approved a similar resolution.

“This is a statement to say, ‘Hey, let’s do business together,’” Clark Rucker, Morristown Utility Systems assistant general manager, said. “We will have a master agreement and several sub-agreements to go with that. There is still some work to do.”

The agreement between the two utilities is for MUS to provide “light services,” which includes FiberNET services, according to Rucker.

The Phase One plan is to provide broadband availability to more than 8,000 customers, both residential and businesses, according to NU General Manager Glenn Ray.

“The number of residential customers included in this first phase represents 47 percent of total households in Cocke County which is fantastic for this initial phase,” Ray said in a letter to NU customers.

Ray said in addition to completing the steps to begin Phase One — tentative plans are to begin construction in the second quarter of 2017 — NU will be working on a high-level engineering study on the remaining areas of the county, with information to be available by the end of this month.

In Morristown, ViAMFilms BOPP, a division of Inteplast Bags and Films Corp., plans to expand its manufacturing facility, requiring an $85,000 initial investment by MUS to provide a transformer and other items. The investment will be recovered by the utility over a number of years through an agreement with the plant. Inteplast, located in the Morristown Airport Industrial District, is the largest industrial customer of the utility.

The MUS power division will spend an additional $40,000 to continue replacing poles and rebuilding the lines, including those underground, located in the area behind Crescent Center Shopping Center.

Two power substations will receive grading and erosion control upgrades. The JB Neill substation, located at Hamblen Avenue in the East Tennessee Valley Industrial District, and the substation at the East Tennessee Progress Center will have extensive work done; the bid was awarded to local contractor, Jim Bewley, for $132,000.

McGuffin reported to the board a meeting took place with Morristown City Administrator Tony Cox and Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney regarding the downtown lighting project. Massey Electric showed the group a new product McGuffin described as more durable and easier to maintain that will be used as a covering for the lighting to be installed under the SkyMart walkway.  

“We gave them the go-ahead yesterday, and they hope to have it completed by May,” McGuffin said.

A street light audit for the city has been completed, according to Bryan Delozier, MUS power division manager, as has the project to relocate electrical lines around the former site of Morristown College.

Delozier reported the March 1 storm caused a power outage to just one Morristown residence and was the result of a downed tree being pulled off the house.

Discussion by the board included the state’s proposed plan for lighting along the overpass of the new Exit 4 connector at highway 160. MUS will provide the lighting within the city limits and has suggested the state use LED (light-emitting diode) lamps, with an estimated upgrade cost of $20,000 from high pressure sodium lighting.

Future street lighting along Merchants Greene Boulevard, from West Andrew Johnson Highway to Highway 160, was a subject of discussion as well.

The street lights would require a power feed from a new substation to be built on a plot of land donated by John Bell, located on the southwest corner of the Northfolk Southern railroad tracks. The lighting would have to meet the Morristown Municipal Airport flight path requirements. The cost of underground power lines for the mile and a half of road way would be considered prohibitive at $15 per foot for high voltage cable; Delozier said an estimate for traditional pole lighting was more than $1 million.

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