During Friday’s special meeting of the Pike County Fiscal Court, the court took action that that could bring broadband internet one step closer to being more accessible to county residents.
The PCFC approved the matching of $25,000 in funds that would help the county complete a feasibility study and strategic implementation plan for Pike County broadband. The move, which Dist. 1 Commissioner Ronnie Robertson said “the county needs,” comes after Pike County Grant Writer Sharon Hall discovered that previously awarded funds were insufficient to complete the study and plan for the county.
“The original amount that was awarded to the fiscal court to the broadband feasibility study and implementation plan was $85,000,” Hall said. “We went through a RFQ process and request for qualifications. We have a broadband committee that did that and they met with the people who applied to do that job.
“They scored them, interviewed them and then selected an engineering firm to do the project. But, once we got into the cost and the scope for the project, we realized we didn’t have enough funding, so we knew that we would have to go back to the table and apply again,” she added.
Hall said more than $59,000 in the original plan came from the Economic Development Association and over $25,000 came from Kentucky Power. However, the Center of Rural Development would not allow the funds from AEP to be used in the match when applying for the Technical Assistance program grant.
“They would not allow us to use the $25,000 from Kentucky Power, because that was really a match on the EDA,” Hall said. “So that’s why we’re pretty much back at the table now, it’s to get our match to go with RD.”
According to her, the Rural Development organization has strict guidelines, so she said she had to go back and ask Judge-Executive Ray Jones if there was any way to get some money to prevent the county from losing a $200,000 project because Kentucky Wired is already in Pike County bringing in fiber currently for state offices.
Jones said the match is something he believes the court “probably needs to do” as local businesses are already investing in broadband, however, he said he would defer to Dist. 1 Commissioner Ronnie Robertson’s opinion, as according to Jones, Robertson has put a lot of work in regarding the topic.
“This broadband is valuable to this county,” Robertson said. “We need it and the businesses need it and even going as far as our industrial park, once we get it up and start trying to find people to go in there.
“The whole county needs this,” he added.
According to Robertson, getting broadband into the county would give residents high-speed, reliable internet, which would allow them the opportunity to work from home, which Jones called a growing trend.
“The Teleworks program that is located over on Ford Mountain, that has created a lot of jobs here,” Jones said. “I mean it really is a trend. You have people working in customer service and tech support for companies all over the world but they’re here.”