Thanks to a partnership between Alexander County and Open Broadband, more than 400 local homes and businesses now have high-speed internet service. Alan Fitzpatrick, CEO of Open Broadband, presented a final update to the Alexander County Board of Commissioners at the October 16th meeting as the partnership has concluded.
Commissioners approved the agreement with Open Broadband in February 2021, with a combined total investment of approximately $582,000, to provide internet service to underserved and unserved areas of the county.
Fitzpatrick said the original goal was the provide internet speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, but all activated accounts have exceeded that goal in Alexander County. He said that while the official partnership has now ended, his company will continue to upgrade equipment and expand service in the county.
“We’re going to continue to turn up more customers in Alexander County,” said Fitzpatrick. “There is a continual evolution in technology. The network that you helped us get started here is just going to get better and better. We will continue to make our own investments and citizens will benefit from that.”
Open Broadband has fixed-wireless equipment on existing towers on Linney’s Mountain and in the Ellendale and Stony Point communities. They also installed a tower on Roundtop Mountain and All Uphill Drive, in addition to 24 hub locations which distribute the wireless signal to more customers.
Fitzpatrick said there is some new technology that will significantly boost internet speeds for their customers, beginning in Stony Point.
“The county is making strides in helping to provide broadband to homes and businesses where internet service is poor or nonexistent,” said Marty Pennell, Chairman of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners. “Having broadband internet service is a necessity these days and we’re proud to have partnered with Open Broadband to help provide a low-cost solution for these 400+ customers.”
For more information about Open Broadband, visit www.openbb.net/alexanderco or call (980) 246-8989.
In other business:
• County Attorney Ben Faulkenberry presented a non-profit organization funding policy to the board for review and approval. He said the purpose of the policy is to promote partnerships between Alexander County and non-profit organizations whose missions and goals are to improve the overall well-being of local citizens. The new policy will help the county to ensure accountability and transparency of the use of public funds and will allow a fair process for submitting, reviewing, and approving applications from local non-profits. Following the presentation, commissioners approved the non-profit funding policy. The application will be available on the county’s website and will be due by February 28 of each year.
• In the County Manager’s Report, Shane Fox said the county veteran services office has moved to the Alexander County Services Center to provide improved access and accommodations for local veterans and their families.
Fox expressed his appreciation to NC Senator Eddie Settle and NC Representative Jeffrey Elmore for helping to secure approximately $10 million for the county, school system, and town. The state funding will be used for the county’s current water line extension project, a new EMS building at station #1, an elevated water tank in Bethlehem, court system improvements, Alexander Central High School stadium upgrade, town sidewalks, non-profit funding, and more.
He said the new fire training facility at the fairgrounds is progressing as the land has been graded and footers have been poured. The containers are supposed to arrive next week.
There will be a second bid opening on October 18 for the “Housing Our Teachers” project at 16 West Main Avenue (the former Chamber of Commerce building). Once renovated, the building will have a ground-floor commercial space with two one-bedroom apartments on the second floor that will be designed to attract teachers. The NC Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development Division awarded a $650,000 Rural Transformation Grant to the county to rehabilitate the property with the county contributing $100,000 to the project.
Fox said the Bethlehem Park improvement project should be bid before the end of 2023. The project includes approximately $1.5 million in much-needed improvements such as new concessions and bathrooms, additional picnic space, new ADA-compliant parking and walkway, field lighting improvements, tennis court resurfacing with pickleball and basketball courts, new batting cages, and more.
He said the bid documents for the Bowman Court sewer project should be ready by the end of the year.
The Alexander Senior Center held a Medicare Spooktacular on October 13 with 130 participants in attendance for the open enrollment event.
Fox said the Post-Overdose Response Team’s Community Paramedic is Shannon Childers, who currently has eight clients, two of whom are advancing toward true recovery from addiction. He said the program is beginning to see some significant progress.
• Commissioners approved three budget amendments, including one for a net increase of $40,000 in solid waste fund expenditures for the Sugar Loaf Convenience Site project.
• The board approved two road names as submitted: Daisy Lane (off Willie McLeod Road) and Eastfield Lane (off O.E. Teague Road).
• The board appointed Susan Fontyn to a 3-year term on the Library Board of Trustees.
The next meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for Monday, November 6 at 6:00 p.m. at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education (room #103). Meetings are recorded and can be viewed on the county’s Government Channel on Spectrum channel 192 or the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync. Meeting agendas, minutes, videos, and more are available on the county’s website at https://alexandercountync.gov/commissioners.