Despite restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 public health emergency, Paragould Light, Water and Cable has made great progress on its projects.

“We currently have 9,351 ONTs [optical network terminals] installed,” said Telecommunications Division director Marcus Dowdy of the Fiber to the Home project in a recent electronic meeting of the utility’s board of commissioners. “We have finished the overhead construction for the entire project.”

Having finished the installation just before Thanksgiving, Dowdy said, crews are now removing the infrastructure of the old coaxial cable system, beginning on the east side of town. He said the removal should take about six months to complete.

In addition, only a small number of service areas remain for the utility to install underground infrastructure.

“They made really good progress this fall,” Dowdy said. He said that part of the project should be completely finished by spring.

Splicing, Dowdy continued, is ongoing in the Fairgrounds service area, while installations are taking place in the Phillips Drive-Rockingchair Road service area and the Dana Drive-Purcell Road service area. According to a map Dowdy made available, construction for Fiber to the Home is complete in the entire city, except for the Bellwood, Bogil, Honeysuckle, 412-Rockingchair, Fairgrounds and Highway 49-Friendship Road service areas.

“We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dowdy concluded, “so we’re excited about that.”

In discussion of the proposed 2021 budget, Utility CEO Darrell Phillips said PLWC is also looking at procuring two charging stations for electric cars, and spending $2.1 million for an engine control unit for its 20-year-old Wärtsilä natural gas-powered electrical generator. “And there is also $2.3 million for the solar plant,” he told the commissioners, “and EDC [the Economic Development Corp.] is funding $2 million of that.”

The plant, to be located on 10 of 28 acres of land at the junction of Highways 358 and 69, will use 4,692 panels, each generating 410 watts. Total output of the farm will be 1.44 megawatts to start (enough to power 203 homes). Expansion of the farm to use more of the 28 acres is also a possibility.

In response to a question from board chair Dr. Mack Shotts, Phillips said PLWC is still researching a possible location for the car charging stations.

“We feel like it’s the wave of the future, but there are safety issues,” he said. “So we are looking for a spot.”

“You’d better plan on more than two,” commissioner David Neighbors replied.

“I suspect so,” said Phillips. “This is just the start.” He added the utility is researching to see what grants may be available.

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