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FILE: As they convert Muscatine to fiber optic internet, Muscatine Power and Water runs concurrent fiber optic and hybrid coaxial systems.

MUSCATINE — Officials at Muscatine Power and Water are taking steps to get the stalled Fiber to the Home Project back on track. The project was expected to be completed by year's end, but only around 20 percent of MP&W's customers have been converted to the all fiber system.

According to the company, MP&W’s Fiber Project is well into the construction phase of converting the current hybrid fiber coax (HFC) system to 100 percent fiber, thus enabling the delivery of increased Internet upload and download speeds, the conversion of the cable TV system to Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and new phone service.

The Board of Water, Electric, and Communications Trustees Tuesday evening authorized General Manager Sal LoBianco to execute a contract amendment and contract change order with the project's general contractor, Atlantic Engineering Group (AEG) of Braselton, GA.

The original contract cost of $7.5 million is expected to rise to nearly $8.3 million.

"We continue to struggle with AEG's progress," LoBianco told the board. "Unfortunately, getting across the finish line seems to be dragging. They say they're committed, and we've seen no increase in workforce. If we don't reach resolution soon, we'll be looking at other alternatives."

Those alternatives, LiBianco said, could involve action on AEG's performance bond, legal action, and seeking a replacement contractor. "These alternatives take time and have significant costs, but MP&W remains committed to making all of Muscatine a gigabit community."

But it won't happen by the end of December deadline. "There is absolutely no way they (AEG) can meet that date," commented Brandy Olson. "It's not going to happen."

The Board on Tuesday night approved the 2019 operating budgets for the Water and Communications Utilities as presented during the October board meeting, but the Electric Utility's 2019 budget will go up by $2 million. That's because the scope and budget for the Unit 9 Turbine/Generator Project had to be revised upward from $1,976,000 to $3,049,000. Additionally, three projects related to the Unit 9 boiler will add another $1,072,200.

The original project was approved in September but had to be revised to cover the unplanned replacement of three rows of turbine blades discovered when the unit was disassembled. The additional projects, included in the 2019 budget, are being pulled forward into 2018, while the unit is down, to minimize or eliminate the need for a maintenance outage in 2019.

Unit 9 is expected to be back on line in mid January.

In addition to approving the 2019 operating budgets for all three utilities, the board also filled the Ten Year Financial Projections which had been presented in October and approved the 2019 Budget Estimate Summary for submission to the Muscatine City Clerk.

Train cars for sale

MP&W will have fewer train cars riding the rails. The board approved a recommendation to sell 80 rail cars for a total of $800,000. The cars are excess, and MP&W has been paying around $80,000 annually to store them. MP&W's remaining 155 cars will be sufficient to meet the Utility's coal needs, LoBianco said.

All three utilities underperformed their respective budgets in October but continued to outperform the year to date.

An October loss of $259,285 was budgeted for the Electric Utility, but the actual loss was $773,329. For the year to date through October, loss of $2,864,722 was projected, but profit of $157,675 was posted for a closing balance of $59,310,000 with no debt. A loss of $3,748,000 is projected for the year.

October profit of $54,380 was budgeted for the Water Utility, but the actual profit was $20,195. For the year to date, profit of $239,530 was budgeted, but actual profit of $556,497 was posted for a closing balance of $6,577,000 but debt of $14,933,000. Income at the end of the year is projected to be $356,000.

The Communications Utility was budgeted to show October profit of $176,250, but actual profit was $157,126. For the year to date, budgeted profit was $1,262,072, but actual profit was $1,803,551 for a closing balance of $11,900,000 but debt of $17,164,000.

In other business, the board ratified payment of October expenditures and transactions totaling $12,657,624.

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