AT&T expanding fiber, cellular coverage, Council concerned with safety of Maplewood Drive construction

Published 4:10 pm Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Sulphur City Council received a report on the roll out of AT&T fiber, including how some households might qualify for discounted service, at the monthly council meeting on Monday.

“In Calcasieu Parish alone, AT&T has invested $40 million dollars,” Levar Greenhouse, area manager external affairs for AT&T, reported. “In addition to our fiber, we’re enhancing our wireless footprint.”

After Hurricane Laura, AT&T invested in three new cell towers, he said. Towers are on West Burton and Maplewood. The third, to be located on Nolan Bunch Road, will be up and running by the end of the year, Greenhouse said.

The fiber installation process, which includes requesting right of way for installation, engineering, planning and construction, will take about six months, Greenhouse said. Each job serves about 300 to 400 homes. When construction begins in a neighborhood, the contractor will mark doors with a hangar that contains the contractor’s number.

“If there is damage to property, small or large, call that number,” Greenhouse said.

The public will also see street signs announcing the work. Fiber will be placed in three or four months. After fiber is placed, a technician will make the final splice. After the final splice, it takes about 48 hours. Then customers can sign up for the fiber service online or in the Sulphur AT&T office. Max speed is 5 gigs.

“I have a gig at my house,” Greenhouse said.

He said it is sufficient to run several computers and four TVs.

“We cannot force anyone to migrate to fiber service,” he said. “There will be a copper line in your front yard until everybody on that line runs to fiber. If there is a major outage, AT&T will say it is more economical to move everybody to fiber and talk to residents to let them know what’s going on.”

AT&T has partnered with the federal government on its Affordable Connectivity Plan, which allows for a $30 subsidy to those who qualify. Combined with Access by AT&T, internet service could be free for 150 Mbps. Persons who qualify must be in a household that receives free or reduced lunch, meet a certain poverty threshold or receive SNAP. At the AT&T office, it is possible to obtain a form to apply, but AT&T personnel cannot complete these applications.

The company is partnering with the Boys and Girls Club in Calcasieu to do some digital literacy training.

Maplewood Drive road work

Sulphur City Council expressed concern about Maplewood Drive construction signage and barricades at the meeting.

Byron Racca, Meyer & Associates, updated the council on the Maplewood Drive rehabilitation project. Racca is the city’s engineering consultant. The street will be resurfaced from Post Oak to East Diane.

“They have recently poured about 100 to 200 feet short of Forest Lane and today they started actively removing the pavement at Forest Lane,” Racca reported. “They hope to have that section between Forest Lane and Beth opened by the beginning of August.”

Racca said getting supplies has been a problem for the contractor, particularly the stone used in the concrete mix. Working with a new formula means the mix has to be actively reviewed and improved.

“Once they rehabilitate Forest to Beth, traffic will be transitioned to the new pavement,” Racca said.

A couple of the city council members and a Sulphur resident were particularly concerned about the safety of the site and lack of warning signage, barricades and lane delineators.

“The bad thing about those flexible delineators separating two-way traffic was people were hitting them and once they were hit, they would lean one way or the other, making it much easier to hit them again.”

The contractor has ordered a different type of delineator and is anticipating delivery soon.

“On a project such as this, there are items the contractor is paid to maintain,” Racca said, “temporary signs and barricade detail for instance. We’ve noticed during the course of construction that they haven’t followed those details completely, and we’ve notified them on several occasions and in several meetings that they need to improve that. At the end of the day, it’s their responsibility to maintain that construction area. They are liable and they are being paid to do that. We advise them when they are falling behind.”

Resident wants council recordings to continue

Sulphur resident Amy Felice said she has been watching the video recorded meetings since they began a “few administrations ago.”

At the last meeting, it was announced that the contract for this service would not be renewed.

“A move to discontinue filming seems a step back when the world is moving forward in terms of technology,” she said.

Felice noted that meeting minutes are available online and some meeting snippets are available in the newspaper. However, the video recording “provides a record of the discussion in the comments in its entirety. Please don’t believe that citizens don’t care about what’s going on in the city just because they aren’t in physical attendance.”

She also noted that the chamber space is limited.

“Transparency is just the positive result of video recording and is an important public service that should be funded and provided by the city,” she said.

Other notes from council meeting

l City Council continues to allow those who are showing progress on house builds and repairs to live in RVs and campers. A list is being compiled of each household, address and status of repair. The city will proceed on the process to demolish 219 North Claiborne St. and 2312 Merwood St., two of four structures listed for condemnation at the meeting.

l An ordinance was introduced to amend the Code of Ordinances of the city of Sulphur – Membership of Land Use and Planning Commission to simplify the language and ensure a smoother transition between appointments to this board and council terms.

l Margaret Harris was recognized for her years of service to the city of Sulphur in her role as Entergy customer service manager. Heather Kramer, the only full-time paid employee of Sulphur Christian Community Coalition, told the council about the group’s work to “break the multi-generational cycle of poverty,” through a series of programs such as working with youngsters, Louisiana HiSET and job training.