Broadband access continues to grow in Alexander County with the recent installation of new fixed-wireless equipment on an existing tower in the Stony Point community. Open Broadband LLC’s Chief Technology Officer Kent Winrich presented a progress update at the February 6 meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners, according to a county press release.
Winrich said the company currently has 350+ customers in Alexander County, many of whom are in unserved or underserved areas.
“The Stony Point tower equipment is now fully operational and new customers will be added in the coming days and weeks. Right now, we’re doing a controlled rollout, so we can ensure customer satisfaction,” Winrich said. “We installed new Nokia equipment on the tower, which offers triple the power of the equipment that is installed on Linney’s Mountain.”
With the Stony Point tower and several associated hubs to be added in the northeast and southeast areas of the county, Winrich said that approximately 350 underserved homes could be served.
In addition, Winrich provided an update on the Moore Mountain tower project, which has been stalled due to tower stability and landowner compliance issues. He said the company has now entered an agreement to utilize a tower in Wilkes County to provide broadband service to 100+ homes in Alexander County. The equipment will be powered by four solar panels.
Chairman Marty Pennell relayed concerns from citizens regarding the rollout of broadband service.
“We are making progress and will be applying more resources since the Stony Point tower is up and running,” Winrich replied.
There are currently more than 100 people on the waitlist for site surveys. To add your name to the list, visit www.openbb.net/alexanderco or call 980-246-8989.
Commissioners approved an agreement with Open Broadband in February 2021 with each entity investing approximately $200,000 in the broadband initiative.
In other county business:
• Sherry Long, Assistant Executive Director for Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG), presented information about a $645,044 neighborhood revitalization grant application submitted to the NC Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development Division. The application requested funding to rehabilitate seven homes and pave 390 linear feet of roadway on Sterling Lane. Commissioners approved a resolution and certification to authorize the rehabilitation project.
• The 2022 Alexander County Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) Annual Report was presented to commissioners by HPC Vice Chairperson Lee Sharpe. He said that work is underway on preparing a National Register nomination for the Downtown Taylorsville Historic District, which includes 44 properties. Sharpe said the major benefit of creating the historic district is the eligibility for tax credits (20 percent federal and 15 percent state), which is a major stimulus of economic development. The County obtained the status of Certified Local Government, which creates opportunities for future federal grant funding. The County also applied for a Rural Transformation Grant, resulting in the county receiving a $650,000 grant to rehabilitate county-owned property at 16 West Main Avenue (former Chamber of Commerce building).
In addition, HPC members participated in several lunch-and-learn activities, tours, and virtual webinars. All HPC members attended the UNC School of Government “Quasi-Judicial Decisions for Preservation Commissions” training workshop recently. Commission Chairman Marty Pennell expressed his appreciation to the HPC members for their hard work. Alexander County Historic Preservation Committee members are Larry Yoder – chairman, Helen Chestnut, Nancy Coley, Betty Long, and Lee Sharpe, as well as staff liaison Connie Kincaid.
• Fire Marshal Mark Earle presented proposals for a training facility that can be utilized by all emergency services agencies and high school fire academy students, to be located at the Taylorsville Lions Club Fairgrounds. He said certified training is necessary and beneficial for the safety of personnel and could improve a fire district’s ISO rating, resulting in lower homeowner insurance premiums. To receive credit, training must occur at a facility that has a three-story tower and a burn building, and is located on at least two acres of land. Earle said the county will receive FEMA Public Assistance Reimbursement Funds that would free up General Fund money in the amount of $131,458.48 to use for the training facility. While several options were presented, Earle recommended the less expensive option of a Conex container fixed facility, which is estimated at $82,050. Commissioners said they would like to meet with the fire chiefs and fire department board presidents to discuss the training facility and its location before making a decision. Earle said the next chiefs’ meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 16, at 7:00 p.m.
• The Commissioners appointed Chairman Marty Pennell as interim county manager as required by NC General Statute 153A-84, which states, “Whenever the position of county manager is vacant, the board of commissioners shall designate a qualified person to exercise the powers and perform the duties of manager until the vacancy is filled. The board may designate the chairman or some other member as interim manager.” The appointment comes as the result of the passing of longtime county manager Rick French in late December 2022. Applications are currently being accepted for the county manager position, with a deadline of February 20.
Commissioners also approved the following appointments and reappointments: Equalization and Review Board – reappoint for one year: Doug Ramsey, David Odom, Linda Barnette, Donovan Douglas, Alan Grant, and Gordon Knight; and Library Board of Trustees – appoint for three years: Cheryl Feimster.
• Commissioners approved eight budget amendments. The board also approved a project budget ordinance in the amount of $84,000 for the Hancock & Moore Building Renovation Project.
The next meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners is set for Thursday, February 16, at 7:00 p.m. at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education, Room #103 (with local fire chiefs and board presidents). Regular meetings are recorded and can be viewed on the county’s Government Channel on Spectrum channel 192 or the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync. Meeting agendas, minutes, videos, and more are available on the county’s website at https://alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.