Pocahontas County Commissioner Jesse Groseclose informed his fellow commissioners at the March 15 meeting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved for Frontier Communications to be exclusively awarded the right to provide broadband service to the vast areas of the county which they had earlier bid on under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF.)
Groseclose explained that this is unfortunate because the Pocahontas County Broadband Council had just submitted its $10.8 million U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Round 3 Reconnect Broadband Grant application. That grant would have provided fast broadband service by Citynet to vast areas of the county. The prospects of the Reconnect Grant being approved were promising, until the recent decision by the FCC. Areas approved for Frontier under the RDOF will be off limits to the county’s Reconnect Grant.
Mike Holstine had earlier told the Broadband Council that if the Reconnect Grant was to be approved before the FCC awarded Frontier their RDOF areas, then those Frontier areas of the county could have been provided with functioning broadband service much quicker under the Reconnect Grant. The concerns now are that Frontier may delay construction of broadband for years in their RDOF awarded areas; not to mention Frontier’s poor reputation for service.
Groseclose said the Broadband Council is still ascertaining whether Frontier received all or only part of their RDOF areas before deciding to continue pursuing the Reconnect Grant application.
Paul Hutchinson, a Beckley attorney representing Farm the Sun, LLC, had been offered a portion of the county-owned East Fork Industrial Park in Frank to use as a solar farm. He was concerned that the property was in the floodplain. County Floodplain Officer Donald McNeel attended Tuesday’s meeting to offer clarification on the matter. After some initial confusion about the exact location of this field, they concluded that it is not in a designated floodplain.
In other matters, the commission:
• approved engineering agreements for a Utilities Feasibility Study for Pocahontas Memorial Hospital (PMH.) The money to do that study has already been approved by the commission.
• agreed to open a county checking account for the approved PMH HVAC and Roof Replacement project.
• completed the second reading and passed the amended 911 Mapping and Addressing Ordinance. The amendments mostly pertained to procedures for naming and renaming privately owned roads in the county.
• granted access to Bear Contracting LLC to part of the East Fork Industrial Park property to store pipes on during construction of the during construction of the Frank-Bartow Sewer Project.
• appointed Leisha Cassell as a Pocahontas County Coroner, who, after receiving training from the State Medical Examiners Office, will provide more timely Coroner service to the upper end of the county.
• approved an agreement with SecuriTech for the annual inspection of the county fire alarm system.
• approved for the 911 Center to accept a $300,000 grant for construction of a site at Thomastown for a State Interoperable Radio Network tower.
• approved a list of Election Officials for the May 10 Primary Election, and their rates of pay as follows: Election Day – $175; Training Day – $50; Supply Commissioner – an additional $30; Escort – an additional $20.; Ballot Commissioner – $125.
• received an update on the electrical usage at the ARC Building. Mike O’Brien said the high monthly electric bills appear to be the result of the large commercial transformers, a 480-volt air compressor and an electrical system designed for industrial use, none of which is required now.
In board updates:
• Walt Helmick said the hospital board feels things are operating smoothly at PMH now that the vaccine mandate issue seems to be behind them.
• Groseclose said Farmland Protection is working on three farm applications.
• John Rebinski said the 911 Board has been working on communication tower replacements and the EMS Board is concerned with EMS personnel coverage. He said they may be forced to pay EMS personnel to get the needed coverage in the future since volunteers are getting older and leaving and not being replaced. Rebinski said the commission might have to revise the Hotel/ Motel Tax distributions in the future to pay for doing that.