WAUZEKA-STEUBEN -A new broadband expansion grant proposal was presented by Richland Grant Telephone Co-op General Manager Josh Lien to the Crawford County Broadband Implementation Committee at their meeting Thursday, Feb. 10.
The proposal for a Wisconsin Public Service Commission Broadband Expansion Grant is based on installing fiber optic cable to the residences and businesses in an underserved area in the southern part of the county including the Village of Wauzeka and many rural areas.
Lien appeared virtually at the meeting to explain the proposal. As presented, the plan would include installing 170 miles of underground fiber optic cable to make broadband internet available to 720 residences at a cost of $8,472,000.
A sticking point in the plan was a proposed funding match from the county, which would have been $1.5 million. As proposed, RGTC would have contributed $885,000. The PSC Grant would be for $6,087,000 or about 70 percent of the cost of the project.
Several members of the committee, including Crawford County Board Chairperson Tom Cornford and county board supervisors Don Stirling and Gary Koch, questioned if the county could afford the size of the proposed contribution. It was pointed out by the county officials and others on the committee that there were other needs in the county that also must be addressed.
Lien emphasized the matching funds made receiving the grant more likely.
The RGTC representative said the co-op was ready to submit the grant proposal with any amount of matching funds that the county designated. He floated the idea of going to 20 percent instead of 30 percent for the matching amount and trying to get the townships, the Village of Wauzeka and affected school districts to make a contribution.
One proposal discussed was to trim the county’s contribution to something like $500,000 or less. There was some talk of trimming the county’s contribution to $350,000.
Following Lien finishing his presentation and leaving the meeting, the committee discussed the amount the county could contribute to the project and decided on $350,000.
Klemme then communicated with Lien the amount of $350,000 for the county’s contribution and asked if RGTC would look to downsize the project.
On Friday, Feb. 11, Lien responded to Dale Klemme with a new PSC Broadband Expansion Grant proposal. Lien stated the Richland-Grant Telephone Co-op was ready to increase their contribution by $500,000, bringing their total contribution $1,385,000
When the RGTC contribution is combined with $350,000, it makes the PSC grant cover about $6,737,000 or 80 percent of the cost.
Klemme realizing the timing of the Tuesday Crawford County Board meeting asked that the proposal be put onto the county board meeting agenda. On Monday, the Crawford County Broadband Implementation Committee met to receive an update on the developments.
At Tuesday’s county board meeting, Klemme explained the revised RGTC PSC grant proposal, which added $500,000 to the co-op’s contribution and reduced the county’s contribution to $350,000.
With little discussion, the board passed a motion to use federal ARPA money the county received to fund the county’s $350,000 portion of the PSC grant proposal. Although the motion was passed on a voice vote, it appeared to be unanimous.
RCTC has until mid-March to submit the proposal to the PSC.In another matter, the Crawford County Board also approved a letter of support for North East Iowa Telephone’s efforts to supply fiber optic cable in the Prairie du Chien area.