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Nex-Tech addresses water leaks
Fiber optic contractors have struck water lines
next-tech contractors
Pictured are contractors working with Nex-Tech on its fiber optic cable project in Great Bend Friday morning. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Contractors working with Nex-Tech on its installation of fiber optic cables in Great Bend have damaged City of Great Bend-owned water lines, causing leaks and frustrating residents. City Utilities Department crews have scrambled to repair the issues as they arise.

The Great Bend Tribune reached out to Nex-Tech for information on the leaks. After consulting his team, Dustin Schlaefli, Hays-based Nex-Tech director of customer engagement, addressed the concerns.

The company provided this question-answer response:

• The number of cuts

– Prior to May 29 there had been 14 water line cuts by contractors working on behalf of Nex-Tech. There have been 33 accidental damage incidents to all types of utilities in Great Bend since starting construction this spring. Some were due to variances in placement of locate markers and some due to accidental hits by the construction crews while digging or boring.

Some were due to variances in placement of locate markers and some due to accidental hits by the construction crews while digging or boring.

– The incidents have slowed down during the past two weeks as some of the construction crews have been assigned to other projects.

• Nex-Tech’s responsibility in the cuts 

– Prior to construction, all utilities are contacted to locate their utilities. It’s each utility company’s responsibility to mark their utility lines with flags and/or paint. 

If something is mismarked out of variance, then there is an increased risk of it being hit/cut. Even if marked with variance, there is a risk of an accidental cut.

– This is a Nex-Tech funded project, and ultimately Nex-Tech is responsible for making sure proper repairs are made to facilities as well as customers’ property, when it’s our fault. The work in Great Bend is being completed by contractors and they are being held accountable for damages when they are at fault.

• Are these common occurrences with this type of project?

– Yes, in most construction projects, there are going to be underground utilities that may be unmarked, or inaccurately marked, and there is a risk of them getting hit while boring or trenching new lines. 

Even when marked, accidents happen as well, while doing underground utility work, but everyone involved in a project does their best to keep damages to a minimum as much as possible. Damage to other utilities is expensive and they slow production during a project. 

There was a significant increase of crews added to the project in early May which increased the visibility of holes caused by excavation and the probability of unexpected damages.

• What recourse does a customer have due to damage that is occurring to personal properties. 

– Contractors as well as Nex-Tech are insured, and we will ensure that damage done to a customer’s property caused by the project is taken care of. In some cases, a contractor will ask a homeowner to get an outside company to do repairs such as to a sprinkler system when they do not feel confident in making the repairs themselves. 

The contractor then takes care of the billing for repairs resulting from the project incident. 

• Who do people need to contact for complaints?

– We have an email address and a phone number set up for customers to make contact with the crew working in Great Bend: 785-833-2150.

Customers can also stop by the local store and one of our local team members will take care of emailing their concern to the appropriate person.

• What is being done to minimize the physical change to people’s yards etc. 

– For all utility construction projects, the company or contractor will call in locates for utilities, prior to construction starting. All utility companies in the area are notified. 

Utility companies typically will have all utilities marked within three business days. Utility companies try their best to accurately mark existing utilities but there can be variances in historical records or design specifications. 

Going through this process helps reduce cut utility lines.

– In most instances in customer’s yards, construction crews will use a boring machine (also called underground directional drill) to install the conduit for the fiber. There will be a hole dug at the entry point, and at the exit point.

The bit starts at the entry hole and bores underground, installing the conduit, until it gets to the exit hole. In other areas, where there is less landscaping and open terrain, the crew may use a yard plow machine. The plow cuts a small channel in the ground and the fiber optic cable is placed in the channel.

– Within a few days of settling and some watering, the plow line will not be highly visible. The type of grass or top terrain will also have a bearing on how noticeable the plow lines are. 

Crews attempt to restore all excavated areas to the same condition as the area was prior to work. 

• Why are we using outside contractors?

– We have been working on building fiber to the residential areas of Great Bend for the past three years and have four areas completed. We have used contractors in Great Bend for this work. 

Nex-Tech made a commitment to complete a very large portion of the City of Great Bend in 2023. To meet this goal Nex-Tech needed to use contractors as Nex-Tech does not have enough internal construction crews to complete all current projects. 

Nex-Tech is also working on active fiber projects in Grainfield, Quinter, and Salina.

• Why are we choosing to do this?

– Nex-Tech announced our intention to build fiber services to the residential areas of Great Bend, which showed significant interest. We started the build in 2020.

Last year during our budget planning process, we planned to finish the areas that had shown interest in 2024. 

• In general, what is the advantage of it and does it have any future value once done.

– Deploying fiber to Great Bend will allow residents of Great Bend to have access to reliable high-speed Internet for years to come. With fiber, we can simply upgrade the equipment on both ends, and continually be able to increase speeds as the demands of customers increase. 

Nex-Tech prefers to deploy fiber in the ground. Fiber that is deployed aerial, or on poles, is subject to damage during ices storms, pole damage due to wind and chewing damage caused by squirrels.