The 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes caused significant damage in Trotwood, knocking out gas, electricity and internet access across the city and hampered communications during clean-up efforts, city officials said. FILE

NEW DETAILS: Trotwood seeks FEMA funds to extend suburban Dayton fiber optics web

Trotwood is seeking FEMA funds to tap into a collaborative fiber optics network, a move officials say will help the tornado-damaged city recover with improved communications while expanding the south suburban initiative to northern Dayton-area communities.

Trotwood is applying for up to $1.7 million in federal disaster relief after the Memorial Day tornadoes last year for money to hook up to the Miami Valley Communications Council’s GATEway Fiber Network, access to which would benefit schools and businesses in the city, said Stephanie Kellum, Trotwood deputy city manager.

Trotwood’s inclusion into the MVCC’s fiber optics network would extend the 44-mile network by about 50% and provide a further chance for its expansion around Dayton, said council Executive Director Jay Weiskircher.

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“Our hope is to form a much larger ring around the entire Dayton area,” Weiskircher said of the network that includes MVCC members Centerville, Kettering, Miamisburg, Moraine, Oakwood, Springboro and West Carrollton.

“So if Trotwood comes in, that gives us a pathway to the north suburbs and….we want to basically encircle Dayton. And that would be a positive for everybody involved,” he added.

Construction on the $1.14 million technology ring started in January 2019 and all member users had access by this past February, according to the MVCC.

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MVCC members cities say they see a variety of advantages with the system. Miamisburg officials say that city is in the last steps to convert its internet service provider to the fiber network and expects to save several thousands of dollars in fees for that service.

“But we look forward to even more collaboration with the other participating cities to also provide better access to technology within our organization and for businesses and residents within the community,” Miamisburg Public Information Officer Gary Giles said in an email.

Tornado hurt communication

The system allows a greater choice in vendors for Kettering telecom services, connecting police dispatch centers for some cities, shares a 911 call answering system, and lowers support and maintenance costs for other public safety technology, according to Drew Miller, that city’s administrative systems director.

The network provides connectivity capable of supporting high bandwidth applications and the capability to extend the fiber network into adjacent communities as desired, the MVCC’s website states.

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Kettering has been online since June 2019 and the improved internet service “made it much easier for us to have a large number of employees working from home during the (coronavirus) lockdown,” according to Miller.

Sinclair Community College uses the network as an MVCC customer through the Miami Valley Educational Computer Association in Yellow Springs, Weiskircher said. If Trotwood were to hook up, it would also be a customer of the network, he added.

Trotwood’s Federal Emergency Management Agency application involves economic development, Kellum said in an email.

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“This recovery effort helps cities develop strategies to make the municipality more sustainable financially and to become more resilient in the future,” she said. “With our project we plan to mitigate communications issues that occurred during the tornado clean up. Due to the tornado, homes and businesses lost gas, electricity and internet access. This created safety concerns and impeded communication.”

‘Improve workforce readiness’

The fiber optics network would benefit Trotwood in several ways, Kellum said.

“With higher speed internet in our city, we expect to lower costs due to competition….this would give businesses located in Trotwood and the surrounding area internet needed to conduct business efficiently,” she said.

“It would allow our schools to have better connectivity, which should improve workforce readiness for students. This, of course, also makes businesses more successful,” Kellum added.

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The business community is also a factor in the goal to extend the fiber optics ring to other northern Dayton suburbs, Weiskircher said.

“That would be a good thing for economic development,” he said. “That’s something that a lot of companies are looking for in terms of fiber access based on what their data storage needs are and things of that nature.”

Trotwood and the MVCC are still discussing costs for the tap in and a decision on the city’s FEMA application may come this summer, Weiskircher said.

If Trotwood connects to the network, the costs may be anywhere from $1 million to $1.7 million, Kellum said. There could be multiple cost-sharing agreements involving Trotwood-Madison schools, the business community, the MVCC and the MVECA.

Those pacts may also involve “adjoining cities who choose to connect to the ring and other service providers who want to join this market,” she said. “Eventually, we hope to offer services to residential customers allowing them to receive better services at lower costs.”

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