By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

County to seek advice on broadband grants

 

Improving internet service throughout rural Yamhill County is something everyone seems to agree would be helpful — and the county has designated $1 million of its allocation from the American Rescue Plan funds for such projects, as well as asking for additional funds from the state Legislature.

However, the project is proving more complicated than it first appeared. The county sent out a request for companies to provide some ideas and rough cost estimates, and it received four, but no two were alike in any way.

Unsure how to proceed, the county commissioners spent some time discussing how to proceed on Thursday.

One problem, county Administrator Ken Huffer noted, is that “A lot of the dollar figures are much more than the county has available to fund projects.”

The county was experiencing technical difficulties, so the work session where commissioners discussed the issue was not livestreamed. The county was able to get its feed working in time for the rest of the meeting.

Huffer apologized for the problems, and promised that the broadband discussion would be available for viewing later, on the recorded Youtube video available from the county’s meetings page on its website.

One of the proposals the county received suggested that the company could provide wireless coverage for 80 to 90% of the county, which Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer said sounded reasonable to her, even if fiber will need to be installed later, to keep up with technology.

“80% or 90% coverage, to me, those are real impacts … even if fiber is the future and wireless is the technology of now,” Berschauer said.

But Commissioner Casey Kulla said that Polk County had awarded a contract on hearing similar promises, and has yet to see them materialize.

“Based on my understanding of the rollout in Polk County, they are at less than 12%; they were promised 90%,” Kulla said.

Commissioners said they felt stymied, because the county itself lacks the technical expertise to design and evaluate bids, but any expertise is most readily available from the very companies that would be competing for the grant money.

Commissioners eventually decided to have staff talk with Business Oregon and the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, to see if they can provide guidance. Huffer said that staff will also consult with Polk County about its efforts to expand wireless coverage in the county.

After the meeting ended, commissioners went into an executive session — closed to the public — to consult with their attorney about real property transactions and potential litigation. They strayed over the permissible bounds of the topics several times, however, including during a discussion about how and when to open part of the topic up for public debate. County Counsel Christian Boenisch eventually interrupted to say the discussion will need to be held in open session.

Comments

NativeOregonian

I'm excited to see this happening. As someone who relies on mediocre satellite service, I really hope we explore all of our options. I was in Northern Montana this past summer and they had high speed internet in a lot of the remote locations. Please, please, please, talk with other rural locations!

miracle

"Commissioners said they felt stymied, because the county itself lacks the technical expertise to design and evaluate bids". Yeah, they got rid of the guy who wrote several technical RFP's, wrote successful grants for millions of dollars, saved the train wreck radio system project, and who actually fired a consultant who a previous commissioner hired that wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars of the county's money. Smart move.......

tagup

You’re right miracle!......The $225,000 settlement seemed cheap at the time, but the county is obviously still paying for that decision. Your post serves as a reminder that the history of poor management decisions & vendettas at the commission level has been going on for a while...

Hibb

It is interesting to see how the County is progressively growing up and now sees broadband as something more than an all-girl music group.