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Commission clears up broadband grant misunderstanding

Tim Walker
AMR Reporter

The Pocahontas County Commission talked with John Tuggle of the Region 4 Economic Development Council (EDC) at its November 17 meeting about the current status of the county’s broadband grant.

Tuggle disagreed with comments made by the commissioners at the November 2 meeting where they stated that the county’s U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Broadband Grant had been denied.

Although admitting that the USDA did “move the goalposts” from an expected approval in mid-fall of 2020, the county grant application remains active, although when it might be approved remains “up in the air.”

Tuggle summed it up by saying, “if you haven’t received a letter of denial, you are still in play.” Tuggle also pointed out that while Region 4 has been assisting the county in its efforts to obtain the grant, the grant application officially goes through the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC).

The commissioners also asked Tuggle about Chris Gianni’s efforts to connect the residents of Gum Road to Citynet’s backbone fiber optic line which runs right past Gum Road.

Gianni has offered to use his own Ohio-based cable installation company to do the connections at no cost to Citynet or to the residents being connected, but needs Citynet’s authorization.

Tuggle said that would be a private transaction with Citynet, and would have nothing to do with the USDA Broadband Grant application. He suggested the commission invite a representative of Citynet to a commission meeting to facilitate communication between Gianni and Citynet. Commissioner Jesse Groseclose and Gianni brought up that Citynet had received public funds to build that line from Snowshoe to Cass for the purpose of expanding connections in the Cass area. Tuggle acknowledged that, and said Citynet has been very slow in expanding broadband service in that area.

In other matters, Rita Griffith, Director of the Day Report Center, asked for, and received the commission’s support for the Center’s 2021 National Crime Victim Rights Week Grant application. This $5,000 grant would support the Day Report Center in presenting a community event, such as a scavenger hunt in April to support victim rights.

Since Griffith is a former Frontier Communications employee and is familiar with broadband, the commissioners asked her opinion about Gianni’s efforts to tie into Citynet’s broadband for the residents of Gum Road. Griffith said doing so might present a liability issue for Citynet since part of the lines to their customers would be connected by a third party.

Jason Bauserman and Jimmy Harmon, representing the Upper Pocahontas County Community Cooperative, briefed the commission on their proposal to build a historical museum to preserve the history of the Howe’s Leather Tannery in Frank. Bauserman explained that they had inspected the original tannery office building last week with Commissioner Walt Helmick and found it to be too damaged and handicapped inaccessible to use as a museum. They did like Helmick’s idea of salvaging historic fixtures and doors from the building and incorporating those into a new, but much scaled-down, museum building on the site.

Lauren Bennett, Director of Parks and Recreation, delivered an update in which she said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their projects this year, but the Wellness Center’s fitness room is operating, and they are building a bike park and are considering building a community park in Hillsboro.

The commission awarded a courthouse complex heating oil contract to Woodford Oil, the only bidder.

They also extended the lease for the WV Division of Forestry to use a portion of the ARC building through January 31, 2022.

The Pocahontas County Commission meets on the first Tuesday of the month beginning at 8:30 a.m. and on the third Tuesday of the month beginning at 5:30 p.m.

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