The Reno County Commission has started a preliminary discussion about running its own fiber optic cables to the landfill and Reno County Public Works building, which has a preliminary cost estimate of about $1 million.
(TNS) — The Reno County, Kan., Commission on Tuesday approved a contract to replace 13 rooftop air conditioners on the Community Corrections building, which is owned by the county and leased for the state offices, at a cost of nearly $81,000.
The board also started a preliminary discussion about running its own fiber optic cables to the landfill and Reno County Public Works building – which has a preliminary cost estimate of about $1 million.
There was little discussion on the air conditioner purchase.
The commission indicated it wanted much more information before acting on the fiber optics.
Maintenance Director Harlan Depew said the air conditioner units were original to the building in 1990 and have outlived their useful life.
"They've needed replacing and we've been planning to do it for several years," he said. "Now is the time."
They will use funds accumulated from lease payments for the work. The project was awarded to Sturgeon Plumbing, Heating and Refrigeration, for $80,741, the lowest of five bids received.
"Equipment this year is challenging to get sometimes, but it appears they're in pretty good shape from their supply chain to get the units they need and get the installation completed before winter weather sets in," Depew said.
The fiber optic discussion arose because the existing "point-to-point" communications tower at the landfill has to be moved as part of the landfill remodel, and the service is unreliable. The wind has knocked it out at least three times and the tower is frequently struck by lightning, said Information Services Director Mike Matthews.
Fiber optics cable, in contrast, is buried. It would also be a more powerful connection, allowing up to 10 gigabytes of data, versus the current 100 megabytes.
Service at the Public Works building has network speeds up to 350 megabytes, but it's even more unreliable than the landfill, Matthews said.
"We don't know what causes it, but they call it radar detection and the system reboots," he said. "It happens most in spring and fall. We've never been able to figure out what causes it."
"One really big advantage to this is if we needed to move some people to Public Works," Matthews said, where there is a lot of open space on the second floor of the building but inadequate capacity to add more staff to the network.
Staff explored using CARES Act money to build the line and setting up health department staff at the location, but the money has to be used before the end of the year, advised County Administrator Randy Partington.
Owning the line, rather than leasing one from a fiber optic provider, Matthews said, would offer more stability for services in the future.
"If we went with a vendor and leased a pair (of cables), which is what it takes to make a connection, if in five years we needed to move more people in we'd need more connectivity," Matthews said. "So we'd have to lease another pair. Or if the vendor sold the inventory he had down there, we'd have to figure out how to do that. If we owned it, we could do what we needed to do."
The county has an "active offer" from a vendor, Matthew said, but it's only for 100 megabytes. That might be able to be increased, he said, but he didn't know the cost.
One of the biggest issues, said Assistant IT Director Brian Moore, is security on the lines.
The county has its own fiber running to the jail and all data on the line is encrypted. Manholes along the route have special locks, preventing the public from getting into them. If they didn't own the line, however, they couldn't guarantee it was not tapped into.
"You have to own both ends of the line," Moore said. "We can run landfill data along a leased line, but if we run one to public works it would be limited what we could use it for."
Their thought, Matthew said, is to run a line from the courthouse to the maintenance building in South Hutchison. From there, separate lines would split off to run in opposite directions, to Public Works and the landfill.
The project could be done in phases, using bonding from the landfill upgrade to pay for that portion of the line, with a line to public works funded later.
"We can probably find the money (for public works) but it's not that urgent," Partington said.
The landfill doesn't need much more bandwidth than it currently has, but they are also exploring using a fiber optics phone system, Matthews said.
"We're looking at options for phone service because we have a pretty old system and some point we're going to have to buy new hardware for that or go to a hosted solution," he said. Cox currently serves the landfill.
They could also use more bandwidth to enable virtual private networks (VPNs) to accommodate more remote work, he said.
Commissioner Ron Hirst said he agreed with Matthews's reasoning on several issues, but he wanted staff to get more information on what contract services might be available and how they would ensure security.
"There are a lot of great vendors out there," Matthew said. "But we'll never be number priority if things go south. When it's ours, we're always our number one priority."
©2020 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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