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Fiber optic network project gaining speed in Lafayette area

The effort to run a fiber optic network to every home and business in Lafayette and parts of Tippecanoe County has taken a significant step forward. That’s according to the company making the effort.

The Lafayette Economic Development Commission is recommending the city council approve a bond for the Metronet project.

Company consultant Steve Biggerstaff says the city would not be liable for the bond, which is needed to start the work.

"The investors have to invest their money before any type of incentive comes back from that [tax increment financing] bond. They're taking all of the up-front risk - their money, their dollars, not backed by anything else. They're out there, so to speak, for us to perform."

The roughly $6 million from the bond would be paid to the company over 25 years. Money generated in the tax increment financing district, which covers the utility poles the fiber cables will run on, would pay off the bond.

Biggerstaff says this means short-term construction jobs and long-term jobs once Metronet sets up shop. It's planning to have a main office in Lafayette on Earl Avenue and a second site in West Lafayette on Salisbury Street.

"We're saying 40 to 50 local jobs. It would be retail, but it would also be technician and service/maintenance."

He says other industries will come to the area once the fiber optic network is up and running.

Metronet has been working on this deal for nearly a decade. Biggerstaff says the investors like what they see in the Lafayette-West Lafayette area.

"The community, the demographics, the fact that it's sort of technology driven. You have a good job and industrial base here. It's a progressive city with great local leadership. Those are signals back to investors that this can be a great place to invest."

The process in Lafayette should be completed in November and Metronet expects to start work on the network in phases beginning in December.

At the same time, the company is working with West Lafayette officials on a bond issue and TIF district. Construction on the west side should begin by the end of the year as well, but the effort to secure the roughly $2 million dollar bond for that part of the project is not as far along.

Still, West Lafayette Development Director Chandler Poole does not think there will be any problems to delay the project.

"All the attorneys from West Lafayette, Lafayette and Metronet are working together to make sure that the documents are prepared properly with the respective language for each city, but we're trying to make sure everyone is onboard."

Construction in the cities and parts of the county is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete. The total cost of the project is about $60 million. If all goes as planned, Metronet could be serving its first customers in the second quarter of 2013.

The fiber optic network is designed to bring faster internet, telephone and television services to the areas served.

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