At its May 3 meeting, the Pocahontas County Commission approved Region 4’s routine draw request #1 from the County Broadband Project. This led to a discussion about the efforts to bring high-speed broadband to the county.
Commission President Walt Helmick said he doesn’t completely understand how those efforts work, and wants more information, such as how other counties in the state are doing this and what are the speeds and routes being proposed here.
Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton agreed that more information is needed. He said it will probably end up costing about $50 million to bring broadband to the complete county, and, so far, they have received a $2-million grant from the Appalachian Regional Com- mission (ARC) plus a $1.5-million local match by CityNet.
Helmick commented that people who moved here to escape electromagnetic pollution do not want broadband brought here, and perhaps we should turn our remoteness into a positive since we have a good quality of life here, with natural beauty and a lot of tourist attractions. Commissioner John Rebinski commented that younger people considering moving here are looking for electronic services such as cell service and high-speed Internet service.
Felton said that CityNet will be installing high-capacity fiber-optic lines down Rt. 219 from Elkins to Lewisburg in late fall and winter, and they plan to extend branches off that main line to provide service to customers residing within about 1,000 feet of either side of Rt. 219.
Amanda Smarr from Region 4 said Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cannot affordably provide high-speed broadband access to sparsely populated areas like Pocahontas County, unless those projects are subsidized by government grants, which is why the County Broadband Council is applying for every available government grant.
The commission also received an update on the efforts to reduce the large electric bills at the ARC Building in Marlinton. Rebinski said last month they turned off one of the three large commercial transformers in the building, since it was not needed, and that has dropped the power bill some. He said they hope to get even bigger savings by shutting down a second transformer once they confirm it is not needed.
Paul Hutchinson came before the commission as a follow-up to the proposed solar farm at the Tannery site in Frank. He said they were considering using that site as a demonstration project to store solar power in batteries, but first need to have engineers and surveyors visit the site to see if it is practical for that.
In other actions at this meeting, the commission:
• approved the lease and easement agreement for the new Thomastown 911 Tower site.
• approved a letter of commitment for the PSD’s application for a $200,000 loan to build the Thornwood Water Project. This project will provide water to 59 residential and commercial customers.
• approved a $5,000 request for funding from Art in Green Bank, after clarifying that the money would not be going to the commercial art gallery located in the same building.
• approved a $2,000 request for funding from Mountain Resource Conservation and Development to help fund a wetland educational and recreational project along the Greenbrier River in Marlinton.