County awarded Internet study grant

Published 3:22 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023

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City OKs resolutions

Escambia County, Ala. was awarded an Internet connectivity study grant, officials announced Monday.

Centerfire Economic CEO Jess Nicholas made the announcement during the Atmore City Council meeting.

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Nicholas said the grant doesn’t have a match, and it’s not going to cost anybody anything.

Nicholas said the state received the grant through the EDA, and then the grant itself went to the Alabama Department of Economics and Community Affairs. He added that ADECA contracted with the firm that will be handling the study.

“Escambia – along with the other nine counties – are beneficiaries of the grant,” Nicholas said. “So no money will flow directly to the county through this — federal funds will go to ADECA, which will use those funds to pay for the study, but the county will receive the results of the study as if it had hired a consultant on its own.”

Nicholas said on Thurs., Jan. 26, at Brewton City Hall, a meeting will be held for the whole county. Elected officials will meet at 9 a.m., and the general public will meet at 1 p.m.

“ADECA, the agency they’ve contracted with on the grant, are going to be there to take community feedback,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas said the 1 p.m. meeting is for business leaders, community members and those who are pushing for better Internet access for the kids. He added that organizations send one person who can represent the group as seats will fill up fast.

“The reason for the survey is that existing service maps, particularly the ones that have been available for years through the United States Department of Agriculture and other entities, are woefully out of date,” Nicholas said. “Most private companies have asked us in the past, as we’ve tried to recruit them, if we had already done a feasibility study and/or mapping study of the county, the cities and identified who had Internet, who didn’t and who had substandard internet. Those surveys are not cheap.”

Nicholas said the grant will pay for the survey.

“Because we were one of the 10 counties selected for this program, the study will be grant-funded rather than us having to do it ourselves,” he said. “The cost of those studies can vary; they’re usually in the mid- to upper five figures, sometimes even six figures. I’m not sure how much money ADECA received through EDA for this, but we’re very grateful they picked us regardless.”

Mayor Jim Staff commended Nicholas on his hard work.

“That’s great news, Jess,” Staff said. “I know you’ve worked hard on this.”

In other business, the council:

• adopted resolution 2023-01, a resolution authorizing Civil Southeast LLC to make application to the Alabama Department of Transportation for Rebuild Alabama Act’s annual grant program for drainage and roadway improvements on Ross Road. The total estimated cost of construction for the project is $343,740;

• adopted resolution 2023-02, a resolution authorizing the purchase a Mobile Air Trailer from Nafeco off the state bid list. The trailer is a 14-foot Mobile Air Trailer with 10-cylinder cascade 6,000 per square inch for $31,750. The trailer will be able to fill70, 30-minute SCBA Cylinders. The trailer will help provide firefighters plenty of air for their breathing apparatuses; and,

• proclaimed January as Blood Donor Month for the city of Atmore.