The Pocahontas County Commission cleared away one of the last hurdles to the construction of high-speed Internet service to a large area in the county. The project, known as the ARC Broadband Project, came about when the County Broadband Council applied for and received $2.5 million in 2021 from the Appalachian Regional Commission Power Grant. The project was later supplemented by an additional $1 million from Internet Service Provider (ISP) Citynet. When completed, it will provide broadband service east out of Marlinton along Route 39, turn north on Route 92 to Dunmore and back south on Route 28.
The start of construction on the project has been delayed because of governmental regulations such as permits and studies. Its current timeline projects completion by July of 2024.
The current delay which has stalled the project for months, has been the approval of agreements with Mon Power (First Energy) and Frontier Communications to attach fiber lines to their existing utility poles. Lawyers for Mon Power and for the county finally worked out an agreement, and the commission approved that agreement at its May 16 meeting.
Although they still need to reach a similar agreement with Frontier, the Broadband Council is hopeful that the same agreement terms will be acceptable to Frontier. The agreement with Mon Power, however, will cover the majority of the poles needed for this project.
Also at the meeting, the commission agreed to switch the county government’s telephone service from Frontier conventional landline service to STI Connect Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephone service. By doing this, the county will save nearly $450 per month on its telephone bill.
They also agreed to allow County Emergency Management to sponsor a new Community Emergency Response Team (CERT,) which was formerly known as Community Watch. CERT is part of a Nationally Accredited volunteer program in which local volunteers will receive training to serve in a back-up role to the county’s first responders. They will assist law enforcement and fire department personnel by providing manpower in situations such as traffic control and search and rescue.
At Commissioner John Rebinski’s request, the commission approved several changes of employment for the Pocahontas County EMS Ambulance Service: Keith Boehmer from being a full-time driver to being a part-time driver; and Sheila Varner from being a part-time EMT/Driver to full-time. The commission also approved the hiring of Holly Arbogast as a part-time EMT/Driver.
Rebinski said they now have eight employees for the ambulance service, of which, six are part-time and two are full-time.
In addition, the commission approved an agreement between Records Management and the Preservation Board; and approved the 2023 proposal by the WVCORP, regarding providing Workers Compensation Coverage for the county.
Because of a change in the scope of the advertised position, the commission did not open or make a selection of the bid proposals received for site clearing for the new 911 Center behind PMH. They will re-advertise for that job with the new description of the required work.
They also took no action of the Hay Removal Lease at the East Fork Industrial Park, wanting more time to consider that.
The commissioners went into an Executive Session to discuss a budget revision for the 911 Center, since it also involved some personnel issues. Upon returning to open session, they announced they will put any decision on this off to a future meeting to get more accurate financial information for the revision.