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Deal struck after flap over fiber-optic project in Horace area

ReadiTech has agreed to pay for an inspector on the project through mid-November.

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Dickey Rural Network/ReadiTech is building a fiber-optic broadband network for the Cass County, North Dakota, towns of Casselton, Horace and Mapleton. ReadiTech's offices in Casselton are seen here July 27, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

HORACE, N.D. — A telecommunications company that raised the ire of Cass County officials over the summer when installing utility lines in the Horace area has come to an agreement on how to proceed.

Dickey Rural Telephone/ReadiTech, which is supplying high-speed internet and telecommunications to the growing town through a fiber-optic broadband network, has filed new permits and agreed with the county on how to install the remainder of lines in the Cass County Highway 17 corridor and how lines already in place will be removed, left in place or abandoned in the right of way.

The main sticking point was that the company had installed some mostly larger-than-expected utility lines in the bottom of the ditch along the county highway that connects West Fargo and Horace. The county doesn't allow such ditch work because of drainage concerns as well as issues that could arise if the road was widened.

Also of concern was miscommunication between the two parties on the project itself.

"I think we've moved forward in a very good manner," said County Highway Engineer Jason Benson who met with ReadiTech's engineering department during the past month.

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"We've made progress in resolving the issues," he told the county commissioners on Monday, Sept. 20.

ReadiTech has also agreed to pay for an inspector hired by the county on the project through mid-November while the work is taking place. Apex Engineering was the low bidder out of five companies for the job, which will involve being onsite daily for the inspection work.

Benson said the county isn't staffed to have a full-time inspector for all utility work in the county highway corridors. The county board unanimously approved the new permits for the work and the hiring of the inspector.

Work is stretching from 52nd Avenue South near the roundabout and the Sheyenne River bridge on the West Fargo-Fargo border into Horace and includes connections in the new Horace industrial park on the south side of town.

Besides installing lines on the permitted outer edges of ditches in the county right-of-way and private property, the company is also doing 10 crossings under the highway to supply connections to new housing developments and current homes and businesses. The company said it will be using directional boring methods under the roads with no effects on traffic.

In a statement, ReadiTech CEO and General Manager Kent Schimke said the local company has already been able to connect the Horace schools to the high-speed fiber-optic lines. The company has also been working in other areas in southeast North Dakota installing fiber-optic lines.

As for lines that have to be removed or abandoned, Benson said those 6-8 feet underground that were bored in will be abandoned and filled with grout while those 3-4 feet deep that were put in by trenching will be removed. Work will also be required for filling in any holes and reseeding grass.

Commission Chairman Chad Peterson said he hoped the project could serve as a future model for others in county right-of-ways.

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