Wapello supes signal support for broadband project

·3 min read

Jul. 21—OTTUMWA — A priority of the Wapello County Board of Supervisors has been helping expand broadband access in the county, and a pathway to help do that has emerged.

On Tuesday the supervisors signaled consensus support for a grant application being prepared by Citizens Mutual Telephone Cooperative under a new state broadband program. Because the item was not on the agenda, supervisors could not take formal action but signaled they would at their next meeting.

The company, based in Bloomfield, has already been expanding its broadband service through fiber connectivity outside of Davis County and into surrounding counties like Appanoose and Wapello.

According to a recent broadband availability assessment, on a ranking of Iowa's 99 counties, where 99th is the least served, Wapello County is 68th. More than 1,800 households in Wapello are eligible for funding.

A representative from Citizens Mutual said the co-operative will be submitting a "core application" regardless of county support from either Wapello or Davis County. But, if supervisors from those counties want to pony up funds toward the effort, the application will see a higher score and perhaps more could be done to address the issue.

Citizens Mutual is seeking a contribution of $260,000 from Wapello County. That coupled, with their own investment of $1.4 million and about $1 million in state funds, would give them a stronger application to receive state funds, they said. The project would mean about 361 homes in Wapello County, out of about 1,000 homes that lack broadband, would get new service.

The window for application ends next Wednesday.

"It can only help us economically and recruiting business and what have you," said supervisor vice chair Brian Morgan. "I think as we've said before, we'd really like to see 80% of the county done in the next four to five years."

A representative from Citizens Mutual said Davis County Supervisors have approved a 20% match for the project for the areas inside Davis County.

In other action, supervisors:

— Approved the resignation of Russ Sporer on the Judicial Nominating Commission.

— Approved the hiring of Emie Shull as assistant building maintenance manager.

— Entered a memorandum of understanding with Sieda regarding the reimbursement of law enforcement overtime for the purposes of drug saturation patrols.

— Approved a standard performance appraisal form, which would be given after an employee has worked for 120 days with the county and then yearly thereafter. The county had lacked a standard form for use across the county.

— Signed off on a letter of support for a rural resilience recovery office through the Southcentral Iowa Local Workforce Development Board. The office would support area cities in multiple counties to assist with applying for and implementing funds from the American Rescue Plan.

— Tabled approving a collective bargaining agreement between Wapello County and Teamsters Local 238 for the sheriff's office. The union had identified duplicative language in the agreement that needed removed before it was approved.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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