Broadband Expansion Discussion – Farmville

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The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors held its first monthly meeting on January 11, starting the new year with its new leaders.

At the first meeting in January, the board manages organizational affairs. The offices of President and Vice President are single-term positions requiring a vote of the Board of Directors to fill the position. In a unanimous vote, Odessa Pride took her place as new president and Llewellen Gilliam Jr. took over as vice president.

The Commission approved proposals from private companies to provide expanded broadband service to unserved areas of Prince Edward County. The IDA has approved the application to seek a loan of up to $4 million through the Tobacco Commission to expand this project with Kinex from a 10-year term to a 4-year term. This loan will be repaid by federal funds received by Kinex.

Broadband begins in Prince Edward, but will extend to Lunenburg and Cumberland counties. The project has $10 million in federal funds and $15 million in state funds, which means it needs $2.2 million in county ARPA funds. Funding also comes from Kinex and other localities.

“From day one, when I came here, one of the biggest things I’ve heard from people in the community is that we don’t have broadband,” said Douglas Stanley, county manager. “Even people who have broadband don’t have good access.”

The project is expected to serve approximately 5,000 potential customers, 90% of which are residential.

IN OTHER BUSINESS:

• Council approved a budget amendment for a grant for the Sheriff’s Department. The county received an EDI of $5,336.15 from the Virginia Commonwealth Department of Motor Vehicles for speeding, alcohol, and occupant protection grants. These funds will be used to reimburse payrolls paid to Sheriff’s Deputies.

• The Commission approved the request for proposals from private companies to provide broadband access and capacity expansion for underserved areas of Prince Edward County. The agreement is with Kinex to provide these services at no upfront cost to individuals.

• The IDA of Prince Edward County secured a $4 million loan from the Tobacco Area Revitalization Commission to use for Kinex to build and maintain high-speed broadband service by fiber.

• The board approved another grant of $116,741.14 for the operating budget of the Prince Edward County Public School. This is a combination of state and federal reimbursement grants with a 25% local match of $561.75, which is a required safety grant equipment allocation and will be covered by the operating budget of the division.

• City utility relief grants were approved for $3,535.29. These funds were transferred to the City of Farmville through an accounts payable check for funds allocated to municipal utilities.

• The Board approved the site agreement to move forward with the solar park with CEP Solar LLC. This refers to the 25 MWac solar farm planned for the property off Rice Creek Road in Rice.

• Scott D. Frederick, Resident Engineer of VDOT, provided an update. There are plans to clean up litter on the roads, as at this time of year it seems to protrude more due to the lack of vegetation. Also, they are still cleaning up the debris from the winter storm and hope to have it cleaned up within the week.

• A public hearing presented an ordinance regulating the lighting of fires. Council previously passed a temporary fire ban due to dry weather ahead of the recent snowstorm. This order allows the Board to more easily issue emergency burn bans when conditions arise. The ordinance is passed unanimously.

• Sarah Puckett provided an update on behalf of Jeffery Jones on landfill compactor offers. The new compactor weighs 94,000 pounds compared to 46,000 currently. The new one is faster and more efficient than the previous one. The old one will be kept for emergency use so that operations do not have to stop for maintenance. After asking for offers, the county only received one at $180,000. The board voted unanimously to approve the offer.

• Sheri McGuire provided an update on the Longwood Small Business Development Center. She provided an update on the upcoming new Innovation Center in Midtown Square. Various spaces will be available there, including a partnership with Longwood and Hampton-Sydney to offer classes and training. She worked with local school superintendents so that K-12 students could do more STEM learning. The project still needs more funding, but McGuire has applied for numerous grants.

• Emergency Management provided an update on COVID-19. Cases are currently exceeding testing capacity and this is taking a heavy toll on the local healthcare system. Puckett encouraged people to get their booster which is free. There’s somewhere in the county that gives out boosters every day.

• Douglas Stanley gave an update on some additional county issues. The county was authorized to implement a 1% sales tax. Submitted comments to the Virginia Supreme Court regarding redistricting. Also, pulling the recycling container in front of Tractor Supply because people are putting trash in the container when they know they’re not allowed to. The container will be removed at the end of January.

• Council approved a permit application for a dog show for Jack Russell Terriers scheduled for March 19-20, at the Five Counties Fair at the Fair Grounds.

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