Open Broadband Presents Update to County Commissioners at Feb. 7 Meeting
ALEXANDER COUNTY (February 9, 2022) – Open Broadband LLC continues to make progress in Alexander County by expanding its digital footprint by adding equipment to existing towers and installing wireless Internet service in local homes and businesses. At the February 7 meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners, Nick Steward, director of Open Broadband in western North Carolina, provided an update on the progress of the project. County.
He said they recently repaired and replaced some tower equipment at Linney’s Mountain and secured a central location on Vista Pointe Drive in Stony Point. A tower site at Stony Point will be operational in the coming weeks once the electrical work is complete. Steward said a landowner on Three Forks Church Road has built a new 70-foot private tower that will serve about 15 homes in that area. He said the company was in the phase two planning stage as it tried to identify a site that covers areas east of Cheatham Ford Road.
“We have 233 connected customers and are seeing an overall increase in service requests in Alexander County,” Steward explained. “We are now expanding our facilities to meet demand.
Commissioners approved the deal with Open Broadband in February 2021, with each entity investing approximately $200,000 in the broadband initiative, which is designed to provide internet service to underserved and unserved areas of the county.
“We are thrilled to be part of this exciting project as we strive to bring broadband to homes and businesses where the internet is not currently available,” said Ronnie Reese, Chairman of the County Board of Commissioners. Alexander. “Having fast, reliable Internet service is a necessity in today’s society, and the Alexander County government is pleased to be a catalyst in this partnership.”
David Moose, compliance and procurement specialist for Alexander County, said there are other opportunities to expand broadband in the county, including the Complete Broadband Access grant ( CAB) through the North Carolina Department of Information Technology. He said staff are looking at opportunities for additional grants to further expand the county’s broadband infrastructure.
In other cases:
• Pamela Bowman, Education Coordinator/Alexander Soil and Water Conservation District Administrator, presented information on Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) projects and other funding for debris removal. Following the November 12, 2020 flood, many local waterways filled with debris.
She said the project had been tendered twice, but the bids were very high. The project is currently in contention for a third time. Bowman said she hopes to present offers at the March 7 board meeting. Funding comes 75% from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and 25% from the North Carolina Division of Soil and Water Conservation.
Bowman said there are state emergency funds to pay for projects not eligible for the EWP program. Alexander Soil & Water requested $381,304 for 10 sites, but only received $174,287. They are currently reworking the scope of work due to higher costs.
There is also a third funding option through the Watercourse Rehabilitation Assistance Program (StrAP). Bowman said his office is accepting new requests to remove debris from waterways through Feb. 18.
• Commissioners continued to discuss a public nuisance complaint regarding a property located at 465 Jimmy Duncan Lane. The issue was originally brought up at the December board meeting. Code enforcement officer Cody Bowers said he received the first complaint about a scrapped vehicle in April 2021 and a second complaint in July about unlabeled, scrapped vehicles in the backyard. Notices were sent to the owner on July 9 and August 10, and a notice of public hearing was sent on November 16. Bowers said he had recently visited the property and it appeared the owner had made some progress with the cleanup. The council voted to grant an additional 30 days to remove scrapped cars and proceed with the reduction if the violation has not been resolved.
• County Executive Rick French presented a timetable for the 2022-2023 budget. On February 11, budget information will be distributed to department heads and outside agencies. On April 4, the finance department will provide the first impression of the budget to the county manager. On May 2, the County Manager will present the budget to the Board of Commissioners. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 16, with adoption of the budget tentatively scheduled for June 6.
• French County Executive also introduced an amendment to the Budget Order regarding the rental of the fairground property by Alexander County Emergency Services at a cost of $1,200 per month, plus $20,000 for the concrete slabs needed to store the trailers.
• In the County Manager’s Report, Mr. French said the County is extending the water faucet fee reduction until December 31, 2022. The reduced faucet fee is $541, which represents a savings of $602. He said the human resources department was conducting a compensation study for all employees. The Grand Opening of the Alexander County Courthouse Park will take place on Sunday, May 15, with guest speakers and live music.
• Scott Berson, Community and Regional Planner for the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG), presented an amendment to the text of the zoning ordinance that would allow accessory structures to be located in the front yards of the property zoned RA- 20 as long as the structure is not within the required front setback and the lot is at least three (3) acres. The request was made by Martin Moretz, who wants to build an inground pool in the front yard of his property. Commissioners approved the amended text.
• Berson introduced a second text amendment to revise Zoning Ordinance Sections 154.274 and 154.355 and Subdivision Bylaw Section 157.012 to decriminalize certain land use violations in accordance with Senate Bill 300 which went into effect on December 1, 2021. SB 300 prohibits local governments from enforcing certain regulations through criminal penalties; however, civil penalties are still permitted. Commissioners approved the amended text.
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners generally meets the first Monday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in Room #103 of the CVCC Alexander Center for Education. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 7 at 6:00 p.m. Regular meetings are recorded and can be viewed on the county government channel on the Spectrum 192 channel or on the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync. Meeting agendas, minutes, videos and more are available on the county’s website at www.alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.