An official from Alltel is expected to meet with Dalton’s city administrator today to try to settle a dispute about whether the city should pay the company for placing some of its downtown phone lines underground.

Bill Scott, Alltel’s area manager, said he plans to meet with city administrator Butch Sanders to try and resolve the issue.

Currently, Alltel is burying phone lines underground along Pentz Street south of Gordon Street. Scott said once that is finished, the company’s commitment to Dalton is too.

But Sanders said Alltel officials agreed to perform the work through the completion of Phase II of the Streetscape beautification project, which includes finishing all of Pentz Street and the cross streets in downtown.

Scott said once the work is finished in the area around City Hall, Alltel will not bury lines on the other downtown streets without charging the city. He compared performing the work without being paid for it to Alltel giving money to a competitor, referring to Dalton Utilities’ Optilink. Optilink, which debuted in spring 2004, offers services similar to Alltel’s, such as phone and Internet access.

“We couldn’t contribute to a competitor,” Scott said. “We felt like we have done all we can do.”

“We’ll continue to do whatever the city asks, but in the future, we will bill the city (for the work),” Scott said.

Sanders said the city will not pay for Alltel to bury its lines.

Scott said his company has always worked with the city and has donated “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in work to the Streetscape project.

According to Sanders, the city has done all the preparation work for all utility companies to put their lines underground. He calls the disagreement with Alltel “a misunderstanding.”

Sanders expects the issue to be resolved without conflict, saying, “We’ve worked well with all utility companies until this point.”

The city built three underground vaults and it is the responsibility of each company to bury its own lines, said Dalton public works director Benny Dunn.

“We’ve had no problems from Charter (Communications) or Dalton Utilities. Alltel is the one holding us up,” Dunn said.

Dunn acknowledged that no contract exists with any of the utility companies concerning the relocation of lines, but said he thought a verbal agreement was in place.

According to Dunn, Alltel officials said to move their lines underground on Morris Street would cost the city $69,000, but they had not provided figures for the other streets or the remainder of Pentz Street.

“We were surprised to find out they weren’t taking their lines down,” Dunn said. He said the work on Pentz Street and the cross streets began a few months ago.

Some city officials would not say what might happen should Alltel stop burying its lines downtown. City Council member Charlie Bethel said the city does not want to consider that option.

Sanders seemed confident Thursday that the disagreement would be worked out today and over the coming weeks.

“We’ve always had an open line of communication,” he said.

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