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TWG Minutes - January 8, 2009

CITY OF FULLERTON

TECHNOLOGY WORKING GROUP

MEETING MINUTES

January 8, 2009

9:00 A.M.

 

 

CALL TO ORDER       Chair Burtner called the meeting to order at 9:04 a.m.

 

ROLL CALL                 Members Present

                                                Roger Burtner, Chair            Harry Lamberth

                                                Fred Canfield                      Ed Smith

                                                Mike Carter                         Thad Sandford

                                                Helen Hall                            Paul Stover, Vice Chair

                                               

                                                Members Absent

                                                Carl Samantello

 

                                                Staff

                                                Nicole Coats, Redevelopment Project Manager

                                                Robert Ferrier, Assistant to the City Manager

 

                                                Guests

                                                Mike Houska, ISMS (via conference call)

                                                Ted Lai, Director of Technology and Media Services,

                                                     Fullerton School District

                                                Bob Todrank, Executive Vice President, ISMS

 

Larry Iboshi and Madusha Palliyage arrived after roll call.

 

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES

 

Chair Burtner asked if there were any corrections to the minutes of the December 4 minutes.  With no corrections, Thad Sandford moved approval of the minutes.  The motion was seconded by Fred Canfield, and the minutes were unanimously approved.

 

DISCUSSION ITEMS

 

Prior to beginning the discussion items, Chair Burtner asked Nicole Coats to introduce herself to the committee and to explain the Redevelopment/Economic Development Department's interest in the committee's work and how it might fit with their department's plans.

 

Ms. Coats explained that she is focused mostly on the economic development portion of the City, whether it is downtown businesses or the bigger picture strategy.  She stated she has been working with the Planning and Redevelopment departments, getting to know all of the businesses, and learned that the TWG's work is very important to the goals that Redevelopment has for the community.  She indicated she hopes to be able to help the TWG implement some of the projects they've been working on.

 

Ms. Coats also reported that Al Zelinka, the City's new Planning Manager, has been working with Bob St. Paul, Senior Planner, on the General Plan update, and they hope to incorporate the proposed I-Net into the policy document as a goal that can be implemented as part of a greater economic development strategy, recognizing that the I-Net would be an asset in recruiting businesses to the City.  She also observed that the I-Net is a project that might be a candidate for economic stimulus funding.

 

1.         Evaluation of Fiber Network Options (Final Report) - ISMS

 

Chair Burtner provided a brief history of how the RFP came about which resulted in the City hiring consultant ISMS to evaluate the I-Net as proposed by the TWG, as well as other possible options that had come forward over time, such as Time-Warner, Synesis, AT&T, and various possible implementations of the TWG plan by either Corning/Paxio, and/or Broadband Associates.

 

Chair Burtner indicated that a preliminary meeting had been held with ISMS to review the project's objectives.  After ISMS had produced a preliminary report, some of the TWG members along with Robert Ferrier had met with ISMS to review the first draft of their work.  Mr. Burtner noted the purpose of today's discussion was to review the draft final report for further comment and input by the TWG, and hopefully the final report would be produced by Monday, January 12.

 

With that being said, Chair Burtner introduced Bob Todrank, executive vice president of ISMS, who would provide an overview of the work ISMS had done and what their findings were, and then respond to any questions or comments by the TWG.

 

Mr. Todrank introduced himself, and introduced Mike Houska who was participating in the meeting via conference call.  Mr. Todrank explained that Mr. Houska had been instrumental in piecing together the pricing information and reviewing all the documents that had been submitted, and was responsible for coordinating all of that information, so Mr. Todrank asked him to participate in this meeting to answer any questions that might come up.

 

Mr. Todrank provided a brief introduction of ISMS, explaining they are a network technology company that focuses on helping cities, with their main focus being fiber-to-the-home plans for entire cities.  Their founder, James Hettrick, was CIO at Loma Linda, California, and was responsible for their connected community program, putting fiber to the homes in Loma Linda.  When Mr. Hettrick left the city he founded ISMS and put together a team of professionals from across the country to help cities improve their connectivity, whether it be a fiber-to-the-home project or an I-Net, or something similar.  ISMS is currently involved in a fiber-to-the-home project in the northwest.  Additionally, they have quite a number of projects under way in New Zealand.  He noted that New Zealand's government has an objective of having every city in New Zealand connected – they believe connectivity is the future for their country.

 

Mr. Todrank then began a lengthy presentation of the contents of ISMS's final report, which includes:

 

            Executive Summary – outlines what ISMS reviewed and what their recommenda-tions are based on that review.

 

            Requirements Comparison Chart – ISMS reviewed all of the requirements of both school districts and the City for connectivity, and compared that to the various proposals and various options that were presented.  The chart looks at all of the requirements of connectivity and how those various options meet or do not meet those requirements.

 

            Cost Comparison Chart – Mr. Todrank pointed out that ISMS did the best they could with the data that everyone had provided.  The cost estimates had been reviewed over and over again, and he believes they are as close as they're going to get without the introduction of any new data, but certainly close enough from which to draw conclusions.

 

            Categories of Options Chart – Provides an overview of service provider connectivity, e.g., a provider such as Time-Warner owns the network, operates the network, and simply sells services to the City for a fee vs. the City forming its own network, managing and operating it, and providing services.

 

            Comparison of Options Chart – Looks at the pros and cons of the city-owned options vs. the service-provider options.

 

            Document Review List – provides a list of documents reviewed by ISMS

 

            Summary of Options

 

            Recommendations – ISMS' recommendation, as a result of their study, is that the City build and own its own I-Net, as opposed to a service provider, explaining that it is a much less expensive option over the first ten-year period.

 

            Appendix

 

Mr. Todrank explained that once the recommendation of a City-owned I-Net was made, ISMS then looked at the proposals from Broadband Associates and Corning to build an I-Net for the City, and then compared the pricing of each.  ISMS also determined that a City-owned I-Net could, in fact, be managed most likely with current IT staff.  Mr. Todrank noted that concern had been expressed that managing an I-Net in-house would put an extra burden or workload on City staff.  ISMS' belief is that with a properly built I-Net, once it is up and running correctly, it should require no more than approximately 2% additional workload on current IT staff.  He explained that the City certainly would have the option of hiring an outside contractor to operate and manage the network if they chose to do so, but it is ISMS' opinion that the I-Net can be operated and managed with current staff.  Under this scenario fiber outages could be repaired by a contractor that provides 24/7 emergency services.

 

Ms. Hall, the City's IT Manager, expressed concern about the actual additional workload on IT staff, explaining that once the WiFi in the downtown area was up and running, it required very little support, but the demand on IT staff came about as a result of trying to resolve user issues.  Mr. Todrank explained that the I-Net would be fully fiber-based, and would not be connected to the WiFi (unless the City chose to do so), and the I-Net would be connected to dedicated building sites only.  The I-Net will present a wide area network (WAN) connectivity to each one of the buildings to a demarcation location.  From inside the building, from that point forward, each entity would be responsible for their own building.  They (IT) would be able to easily check in a matter of seconds if they have connectivity at the City's building.  If they do, then it's a destination building problem.  It's not a City problem.  So basically the WAN, once it is set up and operational, requires no daily maintenance.  City staff can monitor it just like they monitor the other networks in the building currently, just to be sure that connectivity continues.  The only real issues that might happen would be if someone pulls a jumper somewhere on their premises or there is a failure in the fiber, e.g., someone digs it up, cuts it, etc.  But that also would be quickly resolved, because it is ISMS' recommendation that the network be constructed on what's called a self-healing ring fiber network, which basically means that the hardware is self aware – if it loses connectivity in one direction, within 20 millisecond it automatically switches and pulls connectivity from the other side of the ring.  Mr. Todrank also noted that ISMS' recommendation is that the network be installed underground via a microtrenching format.  

 

Vice Chair Stover asked Mr. Todrank to explain "microtrenching."  Mr. Todrank explained that microtrenching involves digging a groove either in the dirt or, as in most cases, where the asphalt of the street meets the concrete curb – the joint line between the two.  Usually the trench is only ¾ of an inch wide by 10 to 24 inches deep, and microconduit 10 to 20 millimeter in diameter is buried in it.  ISMS is recommending installation of what's called "flat-pack conduit" which is three microconduits put together in a small flat pack that is then slotted into the trench.  Mr. Todrank indicated he would provide photos of the microtrenching machine and the process involved.

 

Chair Burtner pointed out that each one of those conduits will hold up to 96 strands of fiber, for a total of 288 strands, which is more than the City and the school districts combined would ever need in the foreseeable future.

 

Vice Chair Stover asked if the location of the microconduit was visibly marked to denote its location.  Mr. Todrank explained that most cities track their microconduit through GIS mapping, primarily because you do not want to advertise the location of your fiber – to avoid vandalism.

 

Mr. Lamberth asked to go on record that going aerial with fiber is a very bad idea.  It would be a poor judgment decision, a waste of money, and would provide no security at all to the network.  Mr. Todrank agreed and said that although ISMS was recommending a backbone of 96 fibers housed in one of the three microconduits, 12 of the fibers should be dedicated to the City for six separate networks.  One network could be dedicated to healthcare, another to education, another to police and public safety, another to city operations, another to traffic control, and a sixth to some other purpose.  The remaining fibers would be available for whatever purposes the City desired.  It could lease dark fiber to commercial fibers, sell connectivity, or find many other uses for it.  The conduit would be connected to hand-holds throughout the City.  Many of them could be hand-holds that already exist for water meters, etc., and a few would be new so that fiber could be pulled through the empty conduit at any time that more fiber is needed.

 

Mr. Todrank continued that it is ISMS' recommendation that the City set up an I-Net committee because there will be a considerable amount of work to be accomplished, particularly during the planning stage.  He noted ISMS' report includes a "conceptual decisions" chart because there are numerous decisions to be made in the process of building an I-Net.  For example, ISMS has identified 15 to 20 sources of funds to build an I-Net.  Each one of those would have to be explored in detail and a determination made as to whether they are applicable or not.  Other decisions that would need to be made include issues pertaining to operations, services, engineering, and policy.  He noted it is a time consuming, complicated process that will require a lot of work and effort, and there may not be City staff available to do that based on existing workloads.  It is ISMS' recommendation that whoever comprises the I-Net committee not be burdened with every day City duties, which might result in the project being put at the bottom of City staff's to do list.

 

Mr. Todrank further noted that it is ISMS' recommendation that the I-Net committee hire or partner with an outside consulting firm to guide them through the process.  He pointed out that a good consulting firm could save huge amounts of time and money by keeping the City from going down the wrong paths because the consultant would be knowledgeable of what other cities have done and not done, what has worked in the past and has not worked, and that experience and knowledge would be invaluable to the I-Net committee.  He noted that ISMS is such a firm, but there are many good firms they could also recommend.

 

ISMS is also recommending that if the City builds the I-Net that it apply to become an ISP.  Becoming an ISP is a relatively simple process.  However, once it is an ISP, the City can apply for a SPIN (Service Provider Identification Number) and, as such, provide E-rate discounts to the school districts just like any other service provider.  E-rate discounts that are recaptured by the City can be used to finance the portion of the I-Net used to provide services to them.

 

Chair Burtner asked how long the planning and construction process typically takes, once a decision is made to go forward with the I-Net.  Mr. Todrank pointed out that first of all it will depend on how quickly the City Council commits to decisions.  If decisions are made quickly, the planning process could take a couple of months, and you could be ready to start construction within six months, but again it would depend on the design, and would also depend on whether construction drawings are done by a consultant or in-house.  It might be possible to have I-Net construction ready to start at least the preliminary backbone ring in certainly three to four months, as long as decisions get made properly along the way.  And you could easily finish the project in under a year, assuming you do not have any holdups, such as for monetary reasons.

 

Mr. Todrank pointed out that every city in America is going to have to address the issue of connectivity because it will impact this country's global competitiveness over the next five to ten years.  He noted that Japan, Europe, Asia, even the Russian federations, are significantly ahead of the U.S. in terms of connectivity.  Japan has a gigabit connection to almost every home in Japan, which is unheard of in this country.  The problem appears to be that cities find connectivity to be such an overwhelmingly big project, they cannot take that first step – they think it is just too big of a project to do.  And that is why a city needs to ally itself with a good consulting firm to partner with through the process.

 

Mr. Sandford asked if ISMS' cost estimates included the cost of hiring a consultant and designer.  Mr. Todrank indicated the cost estimates did not include the cost of a consultant and designer.  They could range from possibly $50,000 for an advisory role by the consultant to $250,000 for a full set of construction drawings including the design and planning.  Mr. Todrank pointed out that the ISMS report does not provide final prices.  The only way to determine costs would be to write a set of specifications.

 

Ms. Hall asked if the ISMS cost estimates included city engineers and project managers.  Again, Mr. Todrank explained that they did not, because all of that needed to be worked out in the first round of planning – a new budget with all of the options and costs involved.

 

Mr. Stover asked about Homeland Security funding, noting that with the fire stations involved as the hubs to the I-Net, it would provide an extraordinary opportunity for the City to ramp up its security.  Mr. Todrank confirmed there are Homeland Security funds available for such a project.  He indicated that Homeland Security grants are currently relatively open, if you make a reasonable proposal as to why the project is important.

 

Mr. Smith questioned the pros and cons chart on page 9 of the report, noting that it could be interpreted as being biased.  He believes it should be more comprehensive.  Mr. Ferrier suggested that instead of looking at it as "pros and cons," perhaps it should be presented as "thoughts to consider."  Mr. Ferrier noted that one of Council's considerations will be the cost of construction, considering they are faced with diminishing revenues and cutting back on expenses, and the I-Net project will be a fairly significant capital outlay.   Mr. Todrank indicated he would work on that chart.

 

Chair Burtner indicated the next issue for the TWG is how does the TWG move forward at this point.  He indicated he would accept a motion that the TWG accept the report (with the expanded chart on page 9) and that the TWG would recommend that ISMS' recommendations be placed before the City Council.

 

Thad Sandford so moved.   Paul Stover seconded, and the motion was unanimously approved.

 

Chair Burtner noted the next issue would be the time table for moving forward.  Mr. Ferrier recommended that ISMS finalize the report and submit it to the City through him.  He would then try to get the report agendized for the City Council's study session scheduled for February 17.  Assuming the City Council wants to move forward with the project, the TWG would still have to go back to Council in a formal session. 

 

Mr. Sandford asked how the study session would be conducted and who would be appropriate to present the recommendations to Council.

 

Mr. Ferrier suggested that since the report is emanating from the TWG, the best format might be for Chair Burtner to introduce the report, hand it off to someone from ISMS to make the presentation, and then Chair Burtner take it back to address questions from Council, and staff would be available to help as needed.

 

Mr. Todrank indicated they would certainly be willing to make the presentation, but that was not covered under the costs of the RFP.  ISMS was hired to produce the report, not to sell the project to Council, but they could be hired to do so.

 

Mr. Ferrier pointed out that he believed the "sell" role belonged to the Technology Working Group.  Chair Burtner agreed.

 

Mr. Stover suggested two changes to the report.  One, he believes the font size of the report is too small for Council to read.  Mr. Todrank indicated it is 10 point, but he could increase it.  It was agreed that 11 point would be sufficient.  Mr. Stover expressed concern about the Executive Summary, noting that he is used to seeing a brief summary, set aside from other material.  He suggested there be an introduction separate from the executive summary.  He further noted that executive summaries are usually signed by someone.  Chair Burtner suggested Mr. Stover discuss his concerns with Mr. Todrank after the meeting.

 

Chair Burtner concluded the discussion with thanks to Mr. Todrank and his team for the excellent job they did in the production of the report.

 

Chair Burtner indicated that because of the lengthy discussion on the ISMS report, the other discussion items would be tabled for a future meeting. 

 

PUBLIC COMMENTS

None

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

None

 

ITEMS FOR NEXT MEETING

To be determined

 

 ADJOURNMENT

With no further business, Chair Burtner asked for a motion to adjourn.  Thad Sandford so moved.  Larry Iboshi seconded, and the motion was unanimously approved.  The meeting was adjourned at 10:38.

 

 

Next meeting scheduled for January 29.

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