Overland Park & Leawood

August 5, 2014

Overland Park to get AT&T ultra high speed broadband service

In other city council action, OP agrees to merge Merriam’s fire department into its own and provide fire service for Merriam

Overland Park will become the first city in Kansas with an AT&T ultra-high-speed network thanks to action by the Overland Park City Council on Monday night.

The council approved a memorandum of understanding with AT&T for installation of a 100 percent fiber optic network offering up to one gigabyte per second broadband service to homes and businesses.

AT&T plans to deploy additional fiber and electronics to its existing network in Overland Park. The new network will give customers access to AT&T’s fastest Internet speeds.

The ultra-high-speed network will allow customers to download an HD online movie in less than 36 seconds, a TV show in less than three seconds and 25 songs in one second, said Mike Scott, vice president-external affairs for AT&T Kansas.

Scott said an exact time line hasn’t been established for expansion of the existing network, but said the company’s goal is to have the network up and running in less than a year.

AT&T has previously announced that it intends to offer its GigaPower service in up to approximately 100 cities across the country. Currently, the U-verse with GigaPower product is available to customers in Austin, Texas.

Scott said AT&T selected Overland Park because of its working relationship with the city and its existing network. “We are thrilled to be entering into this agreement with Overland Park and excited to be able to offer this product,” he said.

Mayor Carl Gerlach said Overland Park was honored to be the first city in the area to have the network.

Specific locations of availability and pricing for the Overland Park market will be announced at a later date, Scott said. Other Johnson County cities being considered for the GigaPower network are Leawood and Shawnee.

AT&T’s agreement may be in part a response to Google Fiber, which came to the area in 2012 and has an agreement to install a high-speed network in Overland Park. Google Fiber construction is ongoing, with a pledge to finish installations in Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan., this year. Work in the suburbs will follow.

In other action, Overland Park agreed to begin providing fire department services for the city of Merriam by the end of this year.

A total of 21 Merriam fire department employees will become employees of Overland Park under a 10-year agreement the city council approved Monday night. The agreement will go into effect the end of December. The Merriam City Council approved the agreement earlier this year.

Merriam has been discussing consolidation of its fire department for years. Unable to reach an agreement with Consolidated Fire District No. 2, which serves northeast Johnson County, Merriam began discussions with Overland Park.

The decision to collaborate grew out of an agreement approved earlier this year enabling Merriam to use a Chevy Tahoe owned by Overland Park for medical emergencies. The agreement is saving Merriam $4,000 in fuel costs this year, because the Tahoe uses less fuel than a fire truck, said Merriam Fire Chief Bob Pape.

Merriam is also receiving advanced life support from the new arrangement, which they didn’t have before. And in return for Overland Park’s investment, the Tahoe and Merriam Fire Department answer calls in a small northern part of town that didn’t have an Overland Park fire station nearby.

Thanks to the success of that agreement, the two cities agreed to move forward on a more dramatic collaboration.

The new agreement will save Merriam $500,000 over the next 10 years, Pape said. Much of that savings will come from salaries. The agreement eliminates Merriam’s need to replace three management positions on the Merriam Fire Department. Those positions include Pape’s, because he is retiring in September.

Merriam will continue to operate its existing fire station at 9000 W. 62nd Terrace, and will continue to be responsible for its furnishings, utilities and repairs. Overland Park will staff the station and use it to provide fire services to Merriam and Overland Park residents.

Additionally, Merriam will continue to hold the title to its firefighting and rescue equipment and provide insurance coverage on the equipment. Merriam also will pay for repairs or replacement of all equipment.

Merriam fire department employees will retain their rank following their transition into Overland Park. Pape said most firefighters will receive a raise in salary upon transitioning into Overland Park because the city has a higher pay scale. Additionally, employees’ pension and insurance benefits will remain the same.

Fire department employees currently working in Merriam will transition from their employment with Merriam to fire service employment with Overland Park beginning the end of December. Additionally, any new employees will be hired and trained by Overland Park.

Using the Merriam fire station as a base will save the city of Overland Park $120,000 annually, said Overland Park Fire Chief Bryan Dehner. Overland Park has been contracting services with Consolidated Fire District No. 2 for a one-square-mile are north of Johnson Drive between Merriam and Mission. The closest Overland Park station to that area is on West 75th Street about two miles from Johnson Drive.

Overland Park will provide all fire services for Merriam, including fire protection, firefighting, investigation and enforcement of fire codes.

In other action, the council held the second and final public hearing on the proposed 2015 budget. No citizens spoke during the hearing.

Overland Park residents will pay the same amount for city taxes next year, which is about $369 for the owner of a $250,000 home. The $241.7 million budget features a $112.7 million operation budget with a mill levy of 12.833 mills, the same as last year.

The budget increases street maintenance funding from $10.4 million in 2014 to $11.3 million in 2015. Additionally, it includes funds for an increase of eight full-time positions, including a police dispatch supervisor, a parks facilities technician, communications assistant and concessions supervisor at the Overland Park Soccer Complex.

The proposed 2015 budget has a full-time equivalent work force of 1,021 employees. Comparatively, the 2009 budget had a full time equivalent of 1,093 employees.

In other action, the council approved rezoning of a .492-acre tract of land for the City Place development. The tract of land was purchased by the developer of City Place after the original rezoning. It includes land that will be used to extend Indian Creek Parkway. The land will be rezoned from R-2 to RP-6 to allow for a trail to connect land to the north previously zoned RP-6.

City Place is a $350 million, 90-acre project southwest of U.S. 69 and College that will include 600,000 square feet of office space, 1,400 apartments and limited retail designed to create what developers envision as a live-work-play environment.

Work is expected to begin by the end of the year on the first apartment project, a 325-unit complex in the southwest corner of the project. A 140-unit senior housing project is also proposed for the southwest corner of the site.

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