Grant to speed up rural internet sought

by Emmitt Feldner
for The Beacon

SHEBOYGAN — The County Board last Tuesday added their support to Bertram Communications’ application for a state grant to help cover the entire county with high-speed internet service.

The board approved sending letters of support for Bertram’s application to the state Broadband Expansion Grant program. The program is making a total of $100 million available for expansion of high-speed internet to rural areas of the state.

“Applications that demonstrate a public/private partnership are evaluated higher than those that do not,” County Board Chair Vernon Koch and County Administrator Adam Payne wrote in a memo to the board.

The resolution supporting the grant was acted on immediately by the board, rather than the usual process of referring it to a second committee for a recommendation before final action by the board at their next meeting.

Payne explained that pulling the resolution for immediate action was necessary because grant applications are due to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission by July 27.

“There is no fiscal commitment by the county,” as a result of the resolution, Payne assured the supervisors. “This is simply supporting their application.”

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The board also approved having the county share in the cost of a two-year program to promote Sheboygan County with the producers of the Discover Wisconsin television program.

The county will partner with the city of Sheboygan and the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp. to fund the campaign, which will include podcasts and blogs, video streaming, e-newsletters and segments on the television program featuring the county.

The intent is to promote tourism, events and worker recruitment in the county.

The county’s share of the campaign cost will be $63,000. In a fiscal note accompanying the resolution, Finance Director Wendy Charnon said the expense is “an eligible activity under the American Recovery Plan Act … and will have no impact on the (property tax) levy.”

Payne, in his report to the board, said the county has established six study committees to make recommendations on how to spend the $22.4 million in ARPA funds the county will be receiving.

Payne listed six possible areas the county could address with the federal money, which the county has three years to spend.

They included support for affordable housing, child care and mental health care, public transportation, workforce development and broadband expansion.

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John Kuhlow of Oostburg was appointed to fill the vacant 21st District supervisory seat. The district includes the village of Oostburg and wards 1 and 2 in the town of Wilson.

Categories: News

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