Looking at a map of the municipal fiber-optic networks in central Ohio shows a Mason-Dixon line on the local information superhighway.

Looking at a map of the municipal fiber-optic networks in central Ohio shows a Mason-Dixon line on the local information superhighway.

"Everything is basically to the north of Interstate 70," Grove City Mayor Ike Stage said.

As a result, Grove City is proposing to build a fiber-optics network to serve southwestern Franklin County.

"We want to fill in that gap," Stage said. "There would be a long-term cost benefit and the benefit of having additional capability that could be provided to the community."

The South-Western City School District school board and Jackson Township trustees have approved memorandums of understanding to participate in the project.

The city has been providing information-technology services to the township since March, said Todd Hurley, Grove City's director of information services.

"We provide the manpower, if you will, and they get their connectivity from Level 3 Communications and Time Warner," he said. "It makes sense for them to be part of this project."

The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio also is expected to participate, Hurley said.

The Southwest Public Libraries system was invited to participate in the project, but has declined, according to its director, Mark Shaw.

"We elected not to participate because our fiber-optic connection is provided free of charge to us by the Ohio Public Library Information Network," Shaw said.

In addition to the free fiber-optics internet connection, OPLIN also provides reference databases free of charge to public libraries, he said.

However, Hurley said, the library system still would be included in the network even though it would not be a paying participant. He said city officials had not expected the library system to participate because of its arrangement with OPLIN.

South-Western district leaders are eager to participate not only for the cost savings the new fiber-optics system would provide, but for the boost in capacity, said Bryan Mulvany, the district's executive director of information services.

The new system would deliver a tenfold increase in capacity for the participating entities, Hurley said.

The added capacity is needed for the school district to handle the ever-increasing use of online technology in the schools, including its Naviance college- and career-readiness software system, Mulvany said.

The new fiber-optics system the city will build "will be like adding several lanes to a highway to handle the increased traffic load," he said.

"The main objective is to become the provider of lit fiber-optic services for the public entities in southwest Franklin County," Hurley said.

City leaders also recognize the possibility of expanding the municipal fiber-optics network to the southeast, he said, and they have been in contact with Obetz and Groveport.

Under the city's proposal, each public entity would contribute the annual cost it pays for its own connectivity to fund the debt service of the new fiber-optics network, Hurley said.

The annual expenditures paid by the city, school district, township and SWACO totals about $585,768.

The school district's annual payment is the largest at $336,000. Grove City pays $97,164, Jackson Township $59,004 and SWACO $93,600.

The annual total would allow the debt service to be paid down in a little more than nine years, Hurley said. The total cost of the project is expected to be $5.4 million.

"After the debt service is paid off, we would own the asset. There would then be a 60 to 70 percent reduction in cost (for connectivity for each entity)," he said.

The city has contracted with John McKenna of Alta 1 to assist with developing the business model for the fiber-optics network and securing agreements with the partnering entities, Hurley said.

Two other options would involve signing a right of use of 20 percent or 50 percent of the 288 fiber-optics strands with a commercial entity, he said. Those agreements would drop the return on investment to about seven and six years, respectively.

The time line is for the city's request for proposals to be completed by the end of this month, be ready for release by mid- to late September and have a proposed contract for the project ready for Grove City Council's consideration near the end of October.

Building and engineering the network would take about nine months, Hurley said.

"It's a short and aggressive time frame," he said, driven by the fact that South-Western's current contract for connectivity expires July 1, 2017.

The goal would be to have the lit fiber-optics services from the new network ready for delivery by that time, Hurley said.