County officials consider ideas for federal funds

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The county continues to research how it will use its federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.

One proposal the Dubois County Council heard Monday would extend high-speed fiber broadband service to unserved and underserved areas in the county.

Joe Henson of Dubois Rural Electric Cooperative explained that the make ready program would allow broadband providers to connect overhead fiber to poles that REC gets ready for use. The program would work with Orange County Fiber, PSCI, Spectrum and Smithville, Henson said. REC would focus on the project, and the timeline for this is 24 months. REC would ready poles for six to nine months before the broadband companies would come in to use them, he explained.

To make this happen, the county would be asked to contribute $4.35 million, which would come from the county’s ARPA money.

The council was interested in the program, which would include PSCI deploying 117 miles of fiber and Orange County deploying about 500 miles of fiber.

Matt Deaton, general manager and chief executive officer of Orange County REMC and its subsidiary, Orange County Fiber, was at the meeting. He said that Orange County is serving about 5,000 people on fiber service now; about 200 of those are Dubois County and they are near the Patoka Lake Regional Water and Ferdinand areas. The company is looking to connect another 5,000 households, he said. Orange County’s project will cost about $21 million, and $7 million of that will be covered with government grants.

One decision that has already been made is to contribute $350,000 for the Dubois County Park’s improvements project.

The park board has $500,000 available for adding RV campsites and a restroom and improving some trails. But the lone project bid taken this summer totaled $1.1 million.

The Dubois County Commissioners agreed to the additional contribution, but Park Board President Christine Prior wanted to explain to county members how the board has reviewed and tweaked the project in hopes of decreasing the cost.

The project will go to bid again this fall. Contractors told project engineers that they prefer to bid on projects in the fall so that they can schedule the project in the following year, Prior said. The hope is that there will be multiple bids, she said. Also, the project will be done as three bids, for the restroom, the trails and the campsites, she said.

By looking at some utility and material costs, the estimated cost can decrease from the $1.1 million to between $850,000 to $900,000, Prior said. The park board has some additional money in its non-reverting fund that could be used if the future bid is over $850,000. And for future projects included in the park’s overall master plan, the board will look for donors interested in helping with the park improvements, Prior said.

The council also:

• Approved a resolution to apply for the Hoosiers Enduring Legacy Program and commit funding to participate if the county is selected for the program.

• Appropriated for the highway budget $25,000 for equipment repairs and $5,000 for tires, and for the cumulative bridge budget $60,000 for tools and equipment and $5,000 for repair and maintenance.

• Approved the following appropriations: $280,000 for the Blue Ridge Services for the COVID testing site, $20,304 for other operation expenses and $8,400 for rent; $300,000 for health insurance, $1,500 for human resources drug screening and $200 for sanitation drug screen/physicals; and $5,000 for St. Charles Annex repairs and maintenance.

• Approved using $15,400 in surcharge funding to update the county’s 911 terminal system located at the Jasper Police Department, which is the county’s 911 backup system.

• Welcomed Forest Park students, who attended the meeting for a class.




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