2009-04-02 / Local & State

County To Meet With Broadband Service Providers

Next town meeting set for Thursday, April 2, at Hustontown Senior Center
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

The Fulton County commissioners have tentative plans to sit down with area broadband service providers to determine the cost and possibility of expanding high-speed services throughout the county.

Ed Silvetti, of the Southern Alleghenies Development and Planning Commission, agreed Tuesday to speak with top officials from Embarq and Frontier about the possibility of a meeting with county officials to review the future of area services. Silvetti will also be further investigating the ins and outs of available grants and federal stimulus monies to further service in rural areas such as Fulton County.

Silvetti noted certain areas of expansion carry a higher price. He added, however, "fiber" is definitely the route to pursue regarding connectivity.

Commissioner Dan Swain reminded those in attendance the possibility exists to establish a public-private partnership with the companies. Furthermore, if the county decided to undertake ownership and maintenance of the fiber system, the usage of the system could be opened to various services, including phone, cable and security companies.

Swain also likened the ownership of the proposed fiber system to the county ownership of area roadways. "It's a more orderly system," he added.

In sharing studies performed by Dr. Andrew Cohill, president/ CEO of Design Nine and a broadband architect with background in network design, architecture, ergonomics and computer science, Swain stated a study should be completed to guide the county and possibly neighboring counties through the process. Studies on this matter typically cost around $50,000, and it is not yet known if federal stimulus funds would cover the creation of a study and any associated planning. Three rounds of funding are available at this time, and interested applicants have until the conclusion of 2009 to make a project commitment.

It was also mentioned other "major potential users" such as JLG Industries, Fulton County Medical Center, county school districts and banks could also be contacted on the matter to determine their current and future needs.

County technology director Eldon Martin reminded the commissioners the auction items will be placed on online for sale by the county on Wednesday. Items are purchased through a competitive bidding process and can be viewed by logging onto auction. co.fulton.pa.us.

Jaime Taylor, community and engagement coordinator for the Fulton County Center for Families, met briefly with the commissioners to provide an update on upcoming programs being offered by the organization. Among those events mentioned by Taylor was Week of the Young Child scheduled for April 19-25.

Chief assessor Michelle Sowers received approval regarding her attendance at an upcoming conference in Seven Springs. The training session was previously budgeted.

Sowers also reported a tax assessment matter involving the Union Township property of Rebecca Murray. The square footage of the home is lower than what was included on the homeowner's building permit, according to reports. As a result, Murray's taxes for 2009 have been re-evaluated or adjusted, as will taxes for 2007 and 2008. Penalties and interest will not be taken into account.

It was mentioned the county's next town meeting will be held Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m. at the Hustontown Senior Center.

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