Roanoke contractor wins bid for data center

By Shannon McGovern

A data center for a new broadband network in Rockbridge County will be built by a Roanoke company and be located behind the Washington and Lee University School of Law.

David Saacke, W&L’s representative on the Rockbridge Area Network Authority board of directors, said the board chose South End Construction, a five-year-old general contracting firm, because it submitted the lowest bid of $2.86 million.

RANA must spend $2.5 million on the project, the same amount contributed by W&L for construction. The university also agreed to house the facility, said Saacke.

The Richard A. Peterson Data Center will be named in honor of the former RANA vice chairman and W&L chief technology officer who died Jan. 12. It will be the heart of the $9 million fiber-optic network being built to provide improved Internet service to much of the county.

The money for the RANA project comes from a federal stimulus grant of about $7 million. The total estimated cost of the entire project is about $9.9 million, which includes the federal money and W&L’s contribution.  The county will cover the remaining costs.

County procurement official Bob Claytor has asked Hoch Associates, an engineering company currently working with RANA, to negotiate a contract with South End that would meet RANA’s spending limit.

Claytor has asked that the negotiations for the potential contract with South End be completed Dec. 4. The contract will be reviewed by RANA, and then submitted to the county board of supervisors Dec. 12 for a vote.

Dan Grim, secretary to the RANA board, said construction could begin as soon as the contract is approved.  The blueprints, designed by Hoch Associates, have been approved, and the outer walls will be delivered to the site pre-cast, he said.

The main contractor will hire electrical and mechanical subcontractors to complete the project, said Grim.  Chris Meier of Hoch Associates said South End has designated two Virginia companies–Trumbo Electric as the electrical subcontractor and Riddleberger Brothers, Inc., as the mechanical subcontractor.

The two contractors combined will complete about 60 percent of the project and will build the technological infrastructure that will support the data center, Meier said. If the project remains on schedule, the data center will be completed by May 2012, said Grim.

The long-term goal for building the data center is increased bandwidth for the county at a reduced price, said Saacke.  The completed fiber-optic broadband network will allow more Internet providers to offer service in the county, which will build competition and eventually create more options for businesses and individuals in the county with wireless Internet.

After the completion of the data center, RANA will hire a contractor to build fiber routes extending outward from the data center.  The network has been designed to pass through areas with higher concentrations of businesses and municipalities.  Initially, only Internet users directly along these routes will benefit from the network, said Saacke.

The broadband project is scheduled to be completed by July 2013, although it will be another few years before the network is serving the region to its capacity, said Grim.

An architect’s depiction of the data center, which will be built behind Washington and Lee’s law school.

For more information read past articles on the data center: