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Rural broadband one step closer as Lycoming County commissioners OK internet service provider

Rural broadband service is one step closer to reality following a vote by the Lycoming County commissioners to award a request for proposal for rural broadband deployment to Windstream LLC, an internet service provider.

In addition to Lycoming County, Union, Clinton and Northumberland counties are involved in the project area. Union County is the lead county on the project, according to Scott Kramer, from the SEDA-Council of Governments.

Kramer said that $2 million in funding per county was obtained from various sources for the project.

The need for broadband was identified in a 2018 feasibility study funded by the individual counties and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

“That study we commissioned was looking at all aspects of broadband within those four counties and one of the main things that we found is those trouble areas and dark areas that are in need of broadband,” Kramer said.

Kramer said that from that study, it was decided, rather than a government entity building the infrastructure, to fund the implementation by internet service providers.

“What we found is that the ISPs (internet service providers) really liked to be involved with that to prevent overbuilding and to just keep the infrastructure the way they need it,” he said.

He said that through the request for proposal process, the providers were given requirements such as speed and the amount of people and businesses that would be using the service. He added that there is a lot of money coming from the federal government for broadband.

Commissioner Scott Metzger pointed out that because of the pandemic with people working from home and schools doing remote learning, the need for rural broadband became an issue.

“We have an opportunity in Lycoming County as people are moving out of the city. We’re within three to four hours of six or seven major cities. We have an opportunity to attract those individuals here,” Metzger added.

In other actions at the commissioners’ meeting, the salary board approved reclassifying the following positions: first assistant public defender position from paygrade 13 to paygrade 14; administrative specialist at the prison from a 7.5 hour day position to an 8-hour day position; and administrative specialist at pre-release from 8-hour day to 7.5 day. They also approved the addition of three maintenance III positions in the facilities management department.

Under personnel, the commissioners approved Jeffrey S. O’Conner as a full-time replacement truck driver at the transfer station at a salary of $16.76 per hour and Janine M. Mastracco, scheduling technician with the courts reclassified to full-time at $16.76 per hour.

Other items approved by the commissioners included:

• An invitation to bid for Flood Plain Housing Remediation Project to Elijah LLC in the amount of $55,000. This is a budgeted item which is totally grant reimbursable.

• An amendment to an agreement with GTL for the prison for inmate telephones. This extends the agreement until Nov. 30.

• Awarding a request for proposal for the printing of absentee and mail-in ballots to NPC, Inc. at a cost of $1.64 per ballot.

• An agreement with Marco, Inc.to purchase nine copiers, which are currently being leased by the county, at a cost of $39,498.

• The purchase of three new Stenograph machines for $15,435.

• The extension of a contract through December 2025 with Green Chip-Electronic Recycling for electronic recycling at the landfill. It was noted that 270 tons of electronics have been recycled through that service.

The next meeting of the commissioners will be at 10 a.m., Oct. 26 in the Commissioners’ Board Room, 1st floor Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.

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