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The Monroe County Reporter
Forsyth, Georgia
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December 25, 2019     The Monroe County Reporter
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December 25, 2019
 

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Page 2B By Richard Dumas torsyth©myrncmet State leaders gathered in Forsyth at the Georgia Public Safety Training Cen— ter (GPSTC) on Thursday, Dec. 5 to discuss ways to expand broadband internet services in rural Georgia. Monroe County played host to the US. Depart- ment of Agriculture (USDA) Georgia ReCon- nect Broadband Workshop with commission chair- man Greg Tapley giving welcome remarks and District 4 commissioner George Emami taking part in a panel discussion about broadband. State representatives Rob- ert Dickey, Susan Holmes and Dale Washburn each addressed the crowd of about 75 persons, which was primarily made up of city and county leaders from governments around the state as well as repre- sentatives from internet service providers. Dickey said many Atlanta-area legislators were not aware of the need for internet expansion in rural areas until the Georgia legisla- ture formed a joint study committee on high-speed broadband communica— tions access several years ago. Dickey, who serves on the 10-person committee alongside Holmes, said of rural broadband woes: “As a small business owner, I saw this coming.” Holmes, who said about one-third of her constitu- ents have no access to in- ternet in their homes, said she champions the need for rural broadband improve- ments every chance she gets. She d, ‘I’ freak [Wishing m clients community Merry Christmas Happy New Year! look fonivard to assisting you with all your Real Estate needs in 2020! . cur on» 473-745-2000 mflyuohortdonoolomonoom ohoridonoolomonoom 478-737-4461 Ext. 313 and Your Famfly I Throughout D The Year"! Your Friends at Ce femfiyhiedécine Natiirenlllmltbffii iz'z'rmi 'ruij') 120 North Lee Street Suite A Forsyth, GA 31029 1516-9944143? Navieentfiealthwrg Do ith “expiration 0 its it?th Ml with , the City of Monroe an a V to transport its solid waste to Crawford County in. I H . tax «madam “emaiinerarsuayso ‘ thefirst i990dutomobile ‘ tagplate.Thonewfags_ wewhiieandpeachih' colormdteaturetheword “Georgia” with a peach as": the at". I TheCltyofForsythholdsits annualChristmasbmquet to. Ci” 1.. ' Steveloneswasthelone , city employee recomized for trauma um mum we trading in the Report-r30. 20ml IuwmfintnhmuhrouMhm by... You Re liivliiiiiii!iiiitiifiiiittéifiiiillitiitllliiiiilli éiiil i2tii3ittiiliéiiéééiiiilittiiiiiitléiiiiiiiiiiiE and an advocate for rural broadband.” Hohnes said she already brought up the issue when she met Kelly Loeffler, tapped by Gov. Brian Kemp as Georgia’s next US. Senator, the previous day. Holmes said Loefller shares her concerns about» rural internet needs. “She’s so unbelievable,” Holmes said of Loeffler. “She is so down-to-earth.” Holmes urged state lead- ers to get to know Loeffler. “She’s smart and good,” Holmes said. “She loves the state of Georgia.” Washburn, who is about to complete his first year in office, said he too is fully aware of the need for rural broadband enhancements. Another speaker, Rusty Haygood, Deputy Com- missioner of Community Development 8r Finance with the Georgia Depart- ment of Community Affairs (DCA), said rural broadband is critical for education, health care and business, especially home- business, needs. Haygood noted that the first rural electrification project was created as part of The Divi- sion of Agricultural Engi— neering at the University of Minnesota. He said, “Really smart people got together to figure out how to make it wor .” Haygood said if Georgia leaders can figure out a way to extend internet access throughout all reaches of the state in an afford— able manner, it will be an achievement that will be talked about for decades. Emami was then part of an hour-long panel discussion moderated by USDA Field Representa- tive Andrew Hayes. Other panelists included: Allen Poole, Director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Eric Snell, President and CEO of Georgia Public Web, Inc., Frankie Rigdon, VP of Operations with Ellijay Telephone Company, Noah Covington, Director of Operations with Pembroke Telephone Company and Beverly Pirkle, Regulatory Affairs Manager with Pem- broke Telephone Company. Emami said when he first moved to Monroe County about a half-dozen years ago he lived with his in-laws off Hwy. 42 South, where he often had to walk about 100 yards to make a cell phone call. Emami, who formerly lived in Ath- ens, said it doesn’t surprise him that legislators who memb r When... perfect attendance. 1999 * Four persons are killed in a one-cor accident on l-ZS inwhich the driven a Lamenceville woman, lost control 1999 Ford causing the SUV to / overturninto the median wall. Vancole,whoh0520years otMiddeGeorgia bonk- ‘Vingexperienoe, isnamedthe new assistant vice-president at The Fonners Bank. Cole's duties will include: consumer and commercial lending, as well as lending. Members at Forsyth United Methochst Chmh brave tiiééilié3ititiiiéfiiiiilliiéiiiliiiliifiéiiifii itiiéf i; cold Christmas Eve winds to participate in a live nativ- ity, complete with manger, and wise men. Holly and Kevin Wangerin portrayed Mary and Joseph. 2009 Trophy Ford re-opens with new business partners and new in~store financing. The dealership had closed in September 2009 after strug- gling to get new inventory from Ford. A reception is held to honor outgoing Forsyth council members Lam Russell and Rosemary Waller: Russell re- tired fnom public service after 34 years as a councilman. Monroe County Memorial Chapel 'We set the standards that Others fellow“ ‘ . Harley Bay fSpanky" 390k sewed Main Street - Fursylh 478-994-4266 p v .2; 1:14:11,i-Mamimncm...“. rm rum“: mm? new. ' . porter State leaders weigh in 0 rural District 4 Monroe County commissioner George Emami was one of six state-wide panelists on how to improve to paucity of internet options for rural Georgia residents during a one-day workshop at GPSTC on Dec. 5. (Photo/ Richard Dumas) live in cities are unaware of ‘ 11...- Emami, who urged Mon- roe County commission- ers to allocate $700,000 of their 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenues for internet expansion, said he thinks he was elected in 2016 largely because he vowed to work to improve rural broadband. He said satellite internet is the only choice for many of his constituents, and they want a higher—speed option. Snell said starting in fall 2018 Sandy Springs- based Georgia Public Web identified eight Georgia communities with internet technology deficiencies and set about trying to identify solutions. Rigdon said Ellijay Tele- phone Company started its application process in March 2019 to apply for a USDA high-speed broad- band internet grant. ' Poole, a multi-term Harelson County com- missioner prior to being tapped by Kemp last year to head up the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said he teamed up with his county’s school system and hospital to contract with a Calhoun-based provider to solve Harelson County’s in- ternet woes. Poole said the provider set up 10 antennae in the county that provided internet access for 80 to 85 percent of the county’s area. Covington and Pirkle said Bryan County-based Pem- broke Telephone Company applied in 2019 for a USDA ReConnect 50/50 loan/ grant to provide internet services for neighboring Evans County. Covington said he found from map— ping the area that there are some citizens who are simply too costly to reach. He cited an example of a homeowner who lives on the other side of railroad tracks, which he said are a major deterrent in extend- ing fiber. He estimated it would cost his company about $2,000 annually to provide internet service for this customer, who would only pay about $720 an— nually ($60 per month) to -- --£-.—- to. “This customer will never get internet from us,” Cov- ington said. Pirkle said in order to re- ceive the grants, applicants must focus on a specific area of need. However, she said it’s often difficult to find an area rural enough (without any type of inter- net option) to qualify for the federal grants. Pirkle also said the grant applica- tion process is rigorous, noting it took two persons working exclusively on the grant for three full months to complete the task . Bill Verner, VP of Exter- nal Affairs with Georgia Electric Membership Cooperatives (EMC) said he can relate to Emami’s plight of dealing with citizen dissatisfaction with broadband. Verner said with the 2019 passage of Senate Bill 2 that authorizes EMCs to provide broad- band services, citizens are getting restless expecting something to happen im- ‘ mediately. Verner said, “Managing expectations While not extinguishing hope is a real challenge.” Verner, who said Georgia EMC powers just under 50 percent of the state’s population and 73 percent of the state’s land area, said EMCs were part of three of the seven USDA ReCon- nect grant applications for high—speed internet submitted in Georgia in 2019. Verner said Georgia EMC’s Georgia Magazine has also written extensively on rural internet needs in Georgia in recent years, citing the Cagle family in Morgan County that drives 20 miles each afternoon to a Madison Chick Fil-A so their kids can do their homework in the parking lot using the restaurant’s internet access. Verner also asked for a moment of silence to memorialize late Georgia House member Iay Powell, who died unexpectedly 10 days earlier on Nov. 25. Verner said Powell, who . championed the passage of December 25, 2019 internet options Senate Bill 2, was a strong supporter of rural broad: band. After a sandwich lunch provided by GPSTC, Deana Perry, Executive Di- rector of Broadband with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), and Bill Price, a strategist with the Georgia Technology Authority, addressed the contingent. Perry said Senate Bill 402 in 2018, also sponsored by Powell, created the framework for the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initative (GBDI). Among GBDI’s tasks are to cre- . ate a Georgia Broadband Map to pinpoint which areas are underserved on broadband. Price said three Georgia counties, Elbert, Lumpkin and Tift, were targeted to begin the study, and in all three instances the actual broadband coverage was determined to be much lower than is indicated on the Federal Communications Com- mission’s (FCC) broadband maps. Price said a map for all of Georgia’s 159 counties is expected to be completed by June 2020. USDA Field Representa- tive Andrew Hayes took up the rest of the afternoon, detailing the three types of funding assistance al- lowed under the USDA’s Broadband Grant & Loan Program. Hayes said the Community Connect Grant Program applies to areas with no broadband access at all, the ReConnect Broadband Loan/ Grant Program applies to areas with 90 to 100 percent of households with no broadband access, and the Rural Broadband Access 1 Loan and Loan Guarantee Program applies to areas in which at least 15 percent of households have no inter- net access while the other 85 percent have no more than two providers. The Community Con- nect grant provides a maximum of $3 million in funding with a local match of 15 percent of the total grant request, the ReCon- nect loan/ grant provides a maximum of $25 million in funding with a local match of 25 percent of the project cost, while the Rural Broadband Access Loan Program also provides a maximum of $25 million in funding. One week after the ReConnect meeting, on Dec. 12, US. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor, announced the availability of a second round of $550 million in USDA funding for the ReConnect pro- gram. Of that $550 mil- lion, up to $200 million is available for grants, up to $200 million is available for 50/50 (grant/loan) com- binations and up to $200 million is available for low- interest loans. Applications for these funds will open on Jan. 31, 2020 and will close on March 16, 2020. “Your Trusted Cleaning Pros!” " (are) Call or Text FULLY INSURED 0 House Cleaning 0 0 Low Pressure House Wash 0 Roof Cleaning 0 Traditional Window Cleaning Power Washing for first anyone suffering from cancer ( canon