Pocahontas Commissioners Question Region 4 Economic Development Council on Broadband Grant
At their November 17th meeting, the Pocahontas County Commissioners remotely via Zoom questioned John Tuttle of the Region Four Economic Development Council about the current status of the county’s broadband project grant. Tuttle disagreed with the commissioner’s earlier stated belief that the county’s U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Broadband Grant had actually been denied. Tuttle said that although 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.” Tuttle summed it up by saying, “if you haven’t received a letter of denial, you are still in play.” Tuttle also pointed out that the grant application officially goes through Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, not Region Four.
The commissioners also asked Tuttle about Chris Gianni’s efforts to connect the residents of Gunn Road to City Net’s backbone fiber optic line which runs right past Gunn Road from Snowshoe to Cass. Gianni has offered to use his own Ohio-based cable installation company to do these connections at no cost to City Net or to the residents being connected, but needs City Net’s authorization. Tuttle said this would strictly be a private transaction with City Net. He suggested the commission invite a representative of City Net to a commission meeting to facilitate communication between Gianni and City Net. Both Commissioner Jessie Groseclose and Gianni brought up that city Net had received public funds to build that line from Snowshoe to Cass for the purpose of expanding connections in the Cass area. Tuttle acknowledged that, and said City Net has been very slow in expanding broadband service in that area. The commissioners agreed to invite City Net to an upcoming meeting.
Later in the meeting, 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 five-thousand-dollar ($5,000.00) 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 also a former Frontier Communications employee and is familiar with broadband, the commissioners also asked her opinion about Gianni’s efforts to hook City Net Broadband to the residents of Gunn Road. Griffith said doing that might present a liability issue for City Net 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 commissioners on their possibly building a historical museum to preserve the history of the Howes Leather Tannery in Frank, WV. Bauserman explained that they had inspected the original tannery office building last week with Commissioner Helmick but 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 before the commission demolishes it, 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 they are building a bike park and are considering building a community park in Hillsboro.
The commissioners awarded a one-year courthouse complex heating oil contract to the only bidder, Woodford Oil.
They also extended the lease for the WV Division of Forestry to use a portion of the Former Shoe Factory building through January 31, 2022.