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Charter Updates County Council on Broadband Buildout in County

Daniel Prince

Rotary Club can place trailers for cans at recycling centers; council approves sheriff's office vehicles

Continuing our look at Tuesday’s Union County Council meeting, James Knox, Senior Manager of Government Affairs with Charter Communications, and Ben Breazeale, Senior Director of Government Affairs with Charter Communications, updated council on the broadband buildout in Union County. They have been working closely with Community Development Director Kathy Jo Lancaster on the project to take broadband to underserved areas. Charter is the largest recipient of money from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which is allowing them to expand broadband to a total of 2593 locations in the northern and southern sections of the county at no cost to the county thanks to the federal subsidy. The rollout is set to begin sometime late in the 2nd quarter of this year, as supply chain issues have delayed it by a few months. They are hoping to run 178 miles of fiber optics to 1280 of the locations this year, and by the end of the 3rd quarter of 2023, they will have run 330 miles of fiber to all 2593 locations. They have identified around 750 additional homes that they were not awarded as part of the grant. He said Knox and Lancaster have been working for several months on an NTIA grant to cover those, as well. They are also applying for a grant from the state coming from federal infrastructure funds. The state is receiving $400 million in all for broadband, and they are gathering support letters and documentation to try and be in the first wave of recipients for the money. Supervisor Frank Hart noted the Town of Carlisle is not included among the 2593 locations on the map, but he said they are working with a vendor who has a wireless solution to offer broadband to rural communities. He said they are going to come back with a proposal, and that might be a good model to use in some of the other rural areas that aren’t included in the Charter Communications rollout.

Council voted to allow Supervisor Frank Hart to formalize an agreement with the Union Rotary Club to allow them to place trailers at the recycling centers for aluminum can recycling. Money the club makes from selling the aluminum goes into the donations they make to numerous causes within Union County.
Hart said Building Superintendent Kenny West will be retiring next month, so council voted to begin advertising that position immediately. They also voted to fill a vacant clerk position in the Union County Tax Assessor’s office, as well as two positions at Healthy U Behavioral Health Services—a clinical counselor and a finance coordinator.

Union County Sheriff Jeff Bailey made a presentation about vehicles for the sheriff’s office. Due to the long turnaround between vehicle requests and vehicle delivery, he asked council to go ahead and approve four vehicles to be purchased the next fiscal year. That way, he could go ahead and get the order in and hopefully have the vehicles delivered slightly sooner than if he waited until the next fiscal year begins. He said the office is requesting three pursuit-rated 2022 Chevy Tahoes and one 2022 Chevy truck for the investigative division. Base cost on the Tahoes was quoted at just under $37,000 each, and the required upfit to get them ready for use by the sheriff’s office would run just less than $21,000 according to one quote he received. He said he would be seeking a couple of other quotes. The truck would have a base cost of $33,375, and it would take an additional $7000 to upfit it. The total quoted price on all vehicles came to $213,655. Council voted to purchase the vehicles using funds from the next fiscal year, not to exceed $220,000. Bailey noted the office received a grant from the state that fully paid for three school resource officers, including uniforms, vests, vehicles, and upfit.

Hart nominated Dr. Kristi Ford Scales to the library board. Her nomination was approved unanimously.

Tim Black, director of the Union County Council on Aging, made a presentation to council about his agency. He noted the group used to receive $89,000 a year from the county, but it was completely cut out of the budget around 7 years ago when the county was facing a large budget deficit. He said he would like to see the council restore that funding, which Hart said would have to come as a request during the upcoming budget hearings in a couple of months. Black also noted that council had previously approved $20,000 for a van, which the group ultimately decided not to buy. They ended up receiving a grant that allowed them to buy a couple of transit vans, a walk-in freezer, and a generator for backup. He asked for council to still award his group that money, but to allow his group to use it for expenses incurred by their vans in running the routes. He noted the group delivers around 3100 hot meals a month to clients in Union, as well as driving approximately 200 miles every Friday to deliver frozen meals to clients in the outlying areas of the county. Council voted to release the $20,000 to the Union County Council on Aging to help with their costs and revenue lost due to COVID.

Council deferred discussion on the airport property, as the airport is working to get additional information from the FAA.

Council voted to appropriate $11,500 to support the planning grant for a development plan for the Lockhart community. This would be matching funds for a grant the town is hoping to receive.

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