Pocahontas Commissioners Told FCC Has Approved Frontier RDOF Areas in County
At their March 15th meeting, Commissioner Jesse Groseclose informed his fellow commissioners that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved for Frontier Communications to be exclusively awarded the right to provide broadband service to the vast areas of the county which they had earlier bid on under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF.) He explained that the reason this is unfortunate is because the Pocahontas County Broadband has just submitted its 10.8-million-dollar U.S, Department of Agriculture’s Round 3 Reconnect Broadband Grant application. That grant would have provided fast broadband service by Citynet to vast areas of the county. The prospects of the Reconnect Grant being approved were promising. However, since the FCC has now approved Frontier’s bids under a different rural broadband program (RDOF,) the county areas assigned to Frontier under RDOF will now be off limits to the Reconnect Grant to build broadband on.
Mike Holstein had earlier told the Broadband Council that if the Reconnect Grant were to be approved before the FCC awarded Frontier their RDOF areas, then those Frontier areas of the county could have been provided with functioning broadband service much quicker under the Reconnect Grant. The concerns now are that Frontier may delay for years even beginning to construct broadband in their RDOF awarded areas; and also, Frontier’s poor reputation for service.
Groseclose said the Broadband Council is still ascertaining whether Frontier received all or only part of their RDOF areas from the FCC, before deciding whether to continue pursuing the Reconnect Grant application or not. We will report on future updates about this.
Also, during this meeting, the commissioners approved engineering agreements for a Utilities Feasibility Study for Pocahontas Memorial Hospital (PMH.) The money to do that study has already been approved by the commission.
They also agreed to open a county checking account for the approved PMH HVAC and Roof replacement project.
Attorney Steven Skinner provided updates regarding the Opioid Litigation; however, this update was given in closed (executive) session. Any action on this was put off until a later date.
They approved their 2022-2023 Fiscal Year Pocahontas County Budget.
The commissioners heard from Paul Hutchinson, a Beckley Attorney representing Farm the Sun, LLC and Donald McNeel, the County Floodplain Manager to clear up whether or not the field at the county-owned East Fork Industrial Park in Frank, which they had offered to Hutchenson to lease out as a soler farm, is in a floodplain or not. After some initial confusion about the exact location of this field, they concluded it is not in a designated floodplain.
There was an item on the agenda concerning approval of a proposed agreement with the WVDOH to proceed with the Linwood Alive Transportation Alternatives Project. The commissioners took no action on this since no one representing DOH was at the meeting, and also because DOH is asking the commission to pay a $200,000 match for them to build the sidewalk there.
The commissioners also:
- Completed the second reading of the amended 911 Mapping and Addressing Ordinance, then passed the amended ordinance. These amendments involved mostly changes to the procedures for naming and renaming privately owned roads in the county.
- Granted access to part of their East Fork Industrial Park property to Bear Contracting LLC to store pipes on during construction of the Frank-Bartow Sewer Project.
- Appointed Leisha Cassell as a Pocahontas County Coroner, who, after receiving training from the State Medical Examiners Office, will provide more timely Coroner service to the upper end of the county.
- Approved the agreement for SecuriTech to do the annual inspection of the county fire alarm system.
- Approved for the 911 Center to accept a $300.000 grant for construction of a site at Thomastown for a State Interoperable Radio Network tower.
- Approved a list of Election Officials for the May 10th Primary Election, and their rates of pay as follows: Election Day -$175.00; Training Day -$50.00; Supply Commissioner -an additional $30.00; Escort-an additional $20.00; Ballot Commissioner-$125.00.
- They received an update on the electrical usage at the ARC Building. Mike O’Brien said the high monthly electric bills appear to be the result of the large commercial transformers, a 480-volt air compressor and an electrical system designed for industrial use, none of which is required now.
During Commission Board updates, Walt Helmick said the Hospital Board feels things are operating smoothly at PMH now that the vaccine mandate issue seems to be behind them.
Jesse Groseclose said Farmland Protection is working on 3 farm closings.
John Rebinski said the 911 Board has been working on communication tower replacements and the EMS Board is concerned with EMS personnel coverage. He said they may be forced to pay EMS personnel to get the needed coverage in the future since volunteers are getting older and leaving and not being replaced. Rebinski said the commission might have to revise the Hotel/Motel Tax distributions in the future to pay for doing that.
Additionally, Helmick said they will hold a special meeting soon about the satellite companies providing local TV channels to their county customers, who now only receive Virginia channels.