LAFAYETTE — City-parish government is seeking damages that could climb into the millions of dollars in a lawsuit that alleges shoddy work by contractors who installed miles of underground fiber optic lines for LUS Fiber.
Lafayette’s city-owned Internet, telephone and television service — first launched in 2009 — was made available citywide last year.
At issue is not a problem with the fiber optic cable but rather the depth that the cable was buried.
City-parish government claims in a lawsuit filed last month that contractors did not follow specifications that called for the cable to be buried deep enough so as not to be damaged by future road work.
The suit also alleges the diagrams that contractors provided to show the depth of the cable are incorrect, increasing the likelihood of damage.
The issue was discovered when a fiber optic cable was mangled during street repairs, and subsequent inspections have found the problem in other areas, Lafayette City-Parish Attorney Michael Hebert said.
“The lines are all at risk for damage every time there is street work,” he said.
If Lafayette chose to reinstall all the cable to the proper depth, the estimated cost would be at least $15 million, according to a letter from Hebert that was filed in connection with the suit.
That figure does not include payments Lafayette is also seeking for alleged damage to other utility lines and buildings during the installation of the fiber optic cable and lost revenue from any unplanned outages.
Hebert said the shallow cable depth does not raise any immediate problems for the LUS Fiber system as a whole but that outages are possible every time a cable is cut.
“There is no immediate effect, and part of the lawsuit is to try to avoid that,” he said.
City-parish government entered an $11 million contract with Mississippi-based Chain Electric Company in 2007 to install the underground fiber optic cables.
Chain then subcontracted the project to Rockport Contracting, of Texas.
Lafayette’s lawsuit was filed against Chain Electric, Rockport Contracting, an engineering firm that inspected the work and a long list of insurers that provided coverage related to the project.
Eric Kracht, a Baton Rouge attorney representing Chain, declined comment.
Chain faces a separate suit in federal court in Texas from Rockport, which is seeking $803,011 that Rockport claims it is owed by Chain for work on the LUS Fiber project.
Chain has responded in court filings that it does not plan to pay the money because Lafayette has withheld $1.3 million in payments from Chain because the city was not satisfied with Rockport’s installation.
Rockport counters that a third-party engineering and inspection firm had signed off on the work in Lafayette.