Expanding broadband access discussed

Published 7:01 pm Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors held its first monthly meeting on Jan. 11, starting the new year with its new leaders.

In the first meeting each January, the Board handles organizational business. The position of chair and vice-chair are one-term positions needing a vote by the Board to fill the position. In a unanimous vote, Odessa Pride took her place as the new chair and Llewellen Gilliam Jr. took over as vice-chair.

The Board approved the proposals from private firms to provide an expanded broadband service into unserved areas of Prince Edward County. The IDA approved the request to solicit a loan of up to $4 million through the Tobacco Commission to advance this project with Kinex from a 10 year period to a 4 year period. This loan will be repaid by the federal funds received by Kinex.

The broadband starts in Prince Edward but will extend into Lunenburg and Cumberland counties. The project has $10 million in federal funds and $15 million in state funds which means it needs $2.2 million from the county’s ARPA funds. Funding is also coming from Kinex and other localities as well.

“Since day one when I got here one of the biggest things I heard from people in the community is we do not have broadband access,” said Douglas Stanley, county manager. “Even the people who do have broadband don’t have good access.”

The project is expected to service around 5,000 potential customers with 90% being residential.

IN OTHER BUSINESS:

• The Board approved a budget amendment for a grant for the Sheriff’s Department. The County received an EDI of $5,336.15 from the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for Speed, Alcohol and Occupant Protection Grants. These funds will be used to reimburse payroll amounts paid to Sheriff’s deputies.

• The Board approved the request for proposals from private firms to provide expansion of broadband access and capacity for the underserved areas of Prince Edward County. The agreement is with Kinex to provide these services with no upfront charges to the individuals.

• The IDA of Prince Edward County was awarded a loan of $4 million from the Tabacco Region Revitalization Commission with the purpose of using it for Kinex to put in and maintain high-speed fiber broadband service.

• The Board approved another grant of $116,741.14 for Prince Edward County Public School’s operating budget. This is a combination of state and federal reimbursement grants with a 25% local match of $561.75, which is a required Security Grant Equipment allocation and will be covered by the division’s operating budget.

• Town utility relief grants funds were approved for $3,535.29. These funds have been transferred to the Town of Farmville via an accounts payable check for the Municipal Utility Allocated Funds.

• The Board approved the siting agreement to move forward with the solar farm with CEP Solar LLC. This is in reference to the 25MWac solar farm planned for the property off Rice Creek Road in Rice.

• Scott D. Frederick, VDOT Resident Engineer, gave an update. There are plans to get litter cleaned up on the roads as this time of year it seems to stick out more due to lack of vegetation. Also, they are still cleaning up debris from the winter storm and hope to have that cleared within the week.

• A public hearing brought forward an ordinance regulating the making of fires. The Board previously adopted a temporary fire ban due to the dry weather before the recent snowstorm. This ordinance makes it easier for the Board to instate emergency burn bans when conditions arise. The ordinance passed unanimously.

• Sarah Puckett delivered an update on behalf of Jeffery Jones about the landfill compactor bids. The new compactor is 94,000 pounds versus the current 46,000. The new one is faster and more efficient than the previous one. The old one will be kept for emergency use so that way operations won’t have to shut down in case of maintenance. After asking for bids, the County only received one at $180,000. The Board voted unanimously to approve the bid.

• Sheri McGuire gave an update on the Longwood Small Business Development Center. She gave an update on the new innovation hub coming to Midtown Square. There will be various spaces available there, including a partnership with Longwood and Hampton-Sydney to offer classes and training. She has worked with superintendents at the local schools so that students kindergarten through 12th grade can do more STEM learning. The project still needs more funding, but McGuire has applied for numerous grants.

• The Emergency Management gave an update regarding COVID-19. Cases are currently more than testing capability and it is taking a toll on the local health care system. Puckett encouraged folks to get their booster which is free. There is somewhere in the County giving boosters every day.

• Douglas Stanley gave an update on some additional matters of the County. The County was approved to implement a 1% sales tax. Submitted comments to the Virginia Supreme Court regarding redistricting. Also, pulling the recycling container in front of Tractor Supply due to folks putting trash in the container despite knowing they aren’t allowed to do so. The container will be removed at the end of January.

• The Board approved a permit application for Dog Trial for Jack Russell Terriers scheduled for March 19 through 20, at the Five County Fair at the Fairgrounds.