Fannin and ETC applying for broadband funds from the state

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga – As part of the county’s commitment to bring broadband to the underserved, the commissioners approved the application of another grant with ETC to hopefully increase the coverage area.

Another grant application with Blue Ridge Mountain EMC (BRMEMC) already in process. If approved, BRMEMC would strive to provide broadband internet South of Old Hwy 76 to the east side of Fannin County.

The resolution approved during the August 11 meeting to apply for the Georgia Fiscal Recovery Fund Broadband Infrastructure grant is with ETC. This grant would help to provide broadband service would likely be in the Hardscrabble area, but exact specifics are still being determined.

The Georgia Fiscal grant opened on August 1 and will close on August 31. It’s an unusually small window for a very competitive grant. South Georgia has more unserved areas as far as internet is concerned. However, North Georgia has a larger population.

ETC is still determining the exact dollar amount and locations for the grant application with the Fannin Development Authority. However, the details don’t change the county’s or the Development Authority’s support of the grant or the work the entities put into it.

“The main competitiveness on the grant is how many locations you can serve for the amount of least money,” ETC Representative Frankie Rigdon explained. “Each entity, that may be applying for the grant right now, that’s what they are trying to do.”

The ultimate goal would be to provide high speed, reliable internet to everyone in Fannin County.

Georgia Fiscal grant has around $300 million to dole out across the state and ETC is hopefully, they will receive a portion for Fannin.

Arial cable is the most cost-effective option for ETC and buried cable is the most expensive. They talk to customers and household to gauge interest in buried cable before starting a project. ETC’s still determining cost versus homes to understand their potential coverage area better for the grant application.

To make both grants more competitive, Fannin Development Authority Executive Director Christie Gribble explained it’s better to have skin in the game. BRMEMEC and ETC are offering to include matching funds for their portions of the grant. BRMEMC will offer to match 10 percent of the total amount of the awarded grant if they receive it. ETC is still deciding.

Fannin County approved a motion to support its broadband expansion partners by offering to match one percent of the service providers matching portion, not to exceed $15,000. For BRMEMC, Fannin’s matching portion would be $14,000.

The money for the matching portion would come out of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funds. The federal government passed ARP earlier this year and the strict guiding principles for use of funds include broadband infrastructure.

Fannin received $2 million from the first ARP payment. The second ARP payment will come later.

ADA-Compliant Playground Equipment

New ADA-compliant playground equipment will be coming to Tom Boyd and Horseshoe Bend Parks. Children with disabilities will be able to use the new playsets once installed.

The Tom Boyd playground will cost$43,986 from Bliss Products, and the new Horseshoe Bend set will cost $162,592 from PlaySouth.

Tom Boyd cost includes the mulch and ground covering for the playset. The old playground was donated by the Kiwanis Club for $37,000.

Chairman Hensley announced that the Chamber of Commerce agreed with the county to use the lodging tax money for this project. At the start of the year, the lodging tax was increased to six percent.

The hotel/motel tax is split 50/50 with the Chamber of Commerce and the county funds would go toward public safety. The change would go into effect on January 1, 2021. 50 percent of the taxes collected must go to marketing and tourism.

Recreation Department Director Eddie O’Neal also asked for $11,600 to clean out the drainage ditch between the tee-ball fields and the after-school area. It would come out of SPLOST funds.

The after-school program has a waiting list of 25 kids, but the building can’t house any more children. The recreation department needs a larger building to continue to grow.

Public Works Department purchased a new sign truck, a 2017 Ford F250, for $38,287. The old truck had 300,000 miles and will be retired from service. A snowplow will potentially be added to the new vehicle to help clear roads in the winter.

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