Commissioners look to move forward with broadband expansion

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

MOUND CITY – At the Linn County Commission meeting on Monday, Nov. 22, Commission Chair Rick James asked Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower when the county was going to start taking applications for expanding broadband service to underserved areas.

Hightower said that she had been contacted by a company that does an analysis of the county to help to decide how to most effectively get service.

County Commissioner Danny McCullough said that he had been talking to Information Technology (IT) Director Chris Martin about how to get service to parts of the county. He thought Martin had a lot of good ideas about what the county needed in different areas.

Martin told Hightower that he would like to see what the company was offering.

James said that he would like to get something started by January or February if the county is going to spend the money for broadband. He also said the commission needed to decide how much the county would spend on bringing broadband to underserved areas of Linn County.

Hightower asked if the county wanted to start with applications for broadband,.

County Commissioner Jim Johnson said that would probably reach the most people coming through the cities.

James asked if it was correct that broadband in this grant referred specifically to fiber optic. Hightower said that she would verify that.

McCullough said that when he and Martin were discussing extending broadband, they were also looking at the possibility of the lake areas: Sugar Valley, Tanglewood, Holiday Lakes, and Lake Chaparral. McCullough said that a lot of people from up north lived at the lakes and expected to have good Internet service.

Hightower suggested having a meeting with people from the lake developments about what they want.

James said he thought it would be a good idea for the county to have an idea what it was offering before meeting with people from the lake areas.

When the county puts the proposal out, we want to make sure we are going to have everything in it so the companies know what they are getting into, James said.

Also in this meeting, Hightower recommended that Jennifer Leach be appointed to the vacant District No. 3 economic development committee position. She said that Leach had attended the recent Economic Development meeting, and she would be really excited to have her on the committee. Johnson made the motion to nominate Leach to the committee.

Hightower said that the Office of Rural Prosperity had presented at the last economic development committee meeting, and that they were having a training for economic development committee members, directors, and county commissioners.

She said she would like to have all members of the committee, especially since many of them were new, and the commissioners attend the training. The training is an eight-week course with up to two two-hour Zoom sessions per week.

The cost of the course is $15 per person. James and Johnson said they would like to attend. McCullough said that he might be interested in seeing the recording of some of the meetings.

Hightower also reported that she had received 15 entries for the Shop Local drawing and that Donna Stevenson was the winner of a Muddy River Outpost in La Cygne, $20 gift certificate.

Hightower said she was going to have another drawing in December.

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