By Cliff McCollum
Thanks to a series of resolutions passed at Tuesday’s Opelika City Council meeting, long-serving city attorney Guy Gunter will become an in-house city employee and will focus his efforts on strictly city business.
“We were pleased to come to an agreement so that Guy could serve the city part-time and scale back on his private practice,” city council president Eddie Smith said. “It was a good idea to bring him in internally, and we’re getting the same man we’ve had for more than 35 years, just in a different capacity.”
Gunter will work 29 hours a week in the new city attorney position, will draw a $60,000 salary and will have access to his own administrative assistant.
The new position had been in the works for several weeks now, as city officials began to see the need for an on-staff city attorney to handle the city’s growing legal needs. Gunter, on the other hand, was going to lose his current office space at the end of the year and was looking for somewhere to relocate.
“It just so happened that he was looking to scale back and we were looking to create an internal position,” Smith said. “It seemed like a good solution to all of the parties involved.”
During the council meeting, Smith also quipped that it would be good for Mayor Gary Fuller and Gunter to work directly with one another, as both are University of Alabama fans.
“They can cry together,” Smith joked, as the council (all Auburn fans) laughed along.
The council also:
- Granted a request from Dolce on Columbus Parkway for lounge retail liquor and retail beer on-premise licenses.
- Purchased a 2013 Ford Fusion for the Planning Department.
- Bought $19,120 worth of ammunition for the Opelika Police Department.
- Agreed to pay $18,647.16 for two computer server for Opelika Power Services.
- Rented five copier machines for various city departments.
- Renewed the contract with the Opelika Housing Authority for the Senior Citizen Center.
- Approved the annual appropriation contract between the city of Opelika and the Lee County Humane Society.
By Cliff McCollum
It’s been almost two months since Opelika Power Services launched its new video, fiber internet and phone systems, and OPS and city officials are pleased with the initial reaction and response to the new services being offered.
During last week’s city council meeting, OPS director David Horton said the OPS staff has been able to handle the initial influx of new customers into the services being offered, and that citizens were continuing to sign up every day.
“We are hearing from people around the town every day, and we’re trying to make sure we’re reaching these new customers as quickly and efficiently as we can,” Horton said.
June Owens, the marketing and communications manager for OPS, said the new cable, voice and internet service has around 584 customers currently, with a current installation rate of about 12 to 15 homes per day.
“Our initial target was around 20 homes a day, but underground drops for new lines and having to work through some deep rock was causing a backlog,” Owens said, adding that the current 12–15 a day benchmark would probably remain until the first of the year.
OPS recently held its official ribbon cutting for the new facility off Fox Run Parkway. The new building is able to house everything OPS needs to run its systems, including in-house warehouse and storage facilities for spare and replacement parts and poles, as well as a well-manned, on-site customer service area.
“With this new facility, we’re able to meet more needs and be available to our citizens in one place, instead of the several locations and buildings across Opelika that we were housed in before,” Owens said.
Though the new voice, data and video service has only officially been open for a few months, OPS spent time testing the system and its various service offerings in locations throughout Opelika before its official launch. Owens said the beta testing undertaken by OPS before launching was essential, as it allowed OPS to discover what potential problems might happen and allowed hands-on experience in fixing any potential issues before the entire system went live.
There was one issue OPS hadn’t anticipated as a slowdown to the installation and maintenance process – squirrels. The furry creatures have been known to take up residence in coils or spools of the fiber cable used in the new system, and OPS workers have had to get rid of the squirrels and repair any damage done to the fiber.
Owens said providing excellent customer service has long been a mission of the organization, a mission they hope to maintain.
“We want to provide our customers, which are our citizens, a service that is second to none. Whether it is video, voice, data or power services, OPS wants our citizens to have innovative, reliable and dependable options,” Owens said. “OPS is not just another company - we are your local, hometown provider and we want to contribute in helping our community grow and thrive.”
Owens said many of the citizens who have changed to OPS’ services have taken advantage of the bundle packages which offer TV, internet and phone services in one package - with some citizens choosing to upgrade portions of their bundle (faster internet service, for example) to better suit their individual needs.
“We’ve seen a good number of customers choose the Triple Play Ultra package, due to its unlimited long distance phone service,” Owens said, “but some customers still want to upgrade, so we’ll help provide them whatever services they think they may need.”
Owens praised Mayor Gary Fuller and the Opelika City Council for their support in making the new OPS facilities and its state-of-the-art fiber system a reality that she believes will benefit the city for years to come.
“I believe that Mayor Fuller and the City Council’s vision for Opelika will be one that will have a huge, long-term impact on Opelika’s ability to prosper in ways we can’t even fully imagine today,” Owens said.
Fuller said he and the council saw the expansion of OPS’ services as a natural extension of what OPS could do for the city.
“The citizens of Opelika have owned the power company (OPS) for over 100 years, and we saw these new services, especially the fiber internet, as a way to protect OPS and make sure that we are being as efficient as possible,” Fuller said. “If we were going to have to go through the expense of updating our power system with this fiber, then we wanted to maximize the capacity of what that fiber can do.”
Fuller said the new OPS services, particularly the high-speed internet, will be something that will benefit Opelika for years to come.
“With this new high-speed system, we’ll see what a difference it can make in our community not just now, but 10 or 20 years down the road,” Fuller said. “With education, with health care and definitely with economic development, we are planting the seeds for exponential future growth, opportunities we can only dream of for now.”
Fuller said he hopes citizens will take advantage of the new offerings from OPS, and added that he and his wife aren’t just supporters - they’re also customers of OPS’ data, video and voice services.
To find out more information about OPS and its TV, internet, phone or power services, contact OPS at 705-5170 or visit its facility at 600 Fox Run Parkway.