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Letter To The Editor – Broadband Update

With county elections imminent, some misunderstandings and possibly deliberately incorrect information is being passed to our citizens about broadband. Our county supervisors voted unanimously in separate monthly meetings to partner with RiverStreet Networks and to apply for a state grant of $798,283 toward a total project cost for the first phase of countywide broadband improvements of $1,338,733.

Matching funds for this grant are being provided in the amounts of $40,000 by the Patrick County Economic Development Authority (EDA), $60,000 by the Patrick County Tourism Advisory Council (TAC), and $440,450 by RiverStreet. Since the county is in dire financial condition, no money was allocated by the Board from the county general fund. The funds from the EDA and TAC do not come from taxes paid by county citizens.

The Board of Supervisors was provided written documentation of the proposed project and grant.  Several presentations were made in the course of obtaining their approvals. They were informed that Virginia officials in charge of this grant program assured us that the county does not incur any liability beyond the above matching funds, even if the project is not completely successful. There is no risk to the county.

RiverStreet’s proposal and performance on similar projects and capabilities were thoroughly reviewed.  Our eight-member committee unanimously recommended that the county go forward with this tremendous opportunity. Dr. Boyce stated before his first of two votes in favor, that he could find no reason not to support this program, and the other supervisors expressed their enthusiasm.

In two board meetings since, Dr. Boyce has stated that the CenturyLink service at his home is the fastest available in the county, and that service at his clinic is also very good. He of all people in our county should appreciate how important broadband is to every citizen. Businesses, including farms, depend on broadband, children need it for school assignments, property purchasers demand it, and citizens are pleading for broadband.

Broadband is not only for the rich and powerful, but it is a necessity for every citizen. Sadly, Dr. Boyce in the last board meeting seemed to have regressed to language of a similar tone as he used when a group of taxpayers first approached the board over a year ago, when he told us “it ain’t going to happen; it is too expensive.

Well, the Broadband Committee, and both the past and new Economic Development directors, have worked hard to achieve this opportunity and we do not plan to be derailed by anyone.

Competition is stiff, but we have a good chance to win this grant in December. If so, RiverStreet will proceed early next year with the first phase of improvements. Whether successful in December or not, RiverStreet and the county plan to apply for upcoming grants until we have completed county-wide upgrades. RiverStreet has committed to providing additional grant matching funds of up to $400,000, minimizing or eliminating any county funding necessary.

Our citizens have made it clear that they want good broadband service, and we have a tremendous opportunity in partnership with RiverStreet to take advantage of state and federal broadband grant programs. It is inconceivable that anyone in a county leadership position would not enthusiastically support our citizen’s desire for essential services becoming available all over our state and nation.

While our county taxes are not being used, we certainly pay state and federal taxes which provide broadband grants, and our citizens expect our share of these funds to be spent here.

The committee appreciates the unwavering support of the other four supervisors.

Steve Terry, chairman,

Patrick County Broadband Committee

 

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