Construction Start-Up of Broadband Project Delayed Until July of 2024.
At the July 28th Pocahontas County Broadband Council meeting, Cory Nipper of Thompson and Litton, stated that the start-up on the construction of the broadband project approved last fall, has been delayed from late in 2022 until July of 2024. He said this occurred due to delays by one of Thompson and Litton’s subcontractors. That project was approved under a Power Grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). Council members expressed disappointment and concerns about this lengthy delay, especially since under the terms of the approved ARC Power Grant, the deadline for completion of the project is September of 2024. Completion of the project construction will be well beyond that deadline if construction doesn’t even begin until July of 2024. However, Amanda Smarr of Region four said that an extension of that deadline date can be requested from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Members were also concerned about how this delay should present at the Broadband Town Hall meeting scheduled for September. One of the reasons for holding the Town Hall was to celebrate this upcoming construction. Mike Holstein said he wanted Thompson and Litton to address the new timeline for the project at the Town Hall meeting and answer any questions from the public about the timeline.
John Tuggle, also of Region Four announced that Roane County and CityNet have signed a preliminary agreement on a plan for Roane County to retain ownership of a portion of the fiber lines in that county’s broadband project. That agreement will still need to be approved by legal counsel. Pocahontas County hopes to use the Roane County agreement as a model for them to retain ownership of part of any fiber lines constructed here as a result of any county-funded broadband project.
As members of the committee chosen by the Broadband Council, Sam Felton, Ruthana Beezley, and Jesse Groseclose are planning a discussion before recommending the selection of a legal firm to the County Commission. Several legal firms have submitted bids to represent the county in regards to broadband legal matters.
Regarding other broadband grants or funding opportunities; it was announced that Reconnect Round 3 grant and loan announcements from the USDA have now begun. There have been no new funding programs announced by the state at this time.
A discussion about Frontier was tabled until the next Broadband Council Meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, August 11th at 1 p.m.