Supervisors put money behind broadband mapping

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – Lee County Supervisors have put a little money where their mouth is when it comes to upgrading broadband access in rural areas.

Supervisors, at Tuesday’s regular board meeting, unanimously approved paying about 20% of the cost of a new mapping system already in the hands of the Lee County Economic Development Group.

The cost of the mapping project was just over $5,000 and the county agreed to pay $1,000, but Supervisor Rick Larkin encouraged other entities in the county to chip on the project as well.

“We need to know where we’re at and we need to get this done as soon as possible. That’s why I brought it up last week,” Larkin said.

Upon a check with the Lee County Auditor’s office, Larkin said there was funding available if the motion were approved.

He also said Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld was behind supporting the project financially.

Mohrfeld said the cost of the project shouldn’t be shared by just one entity.

“If it truly is a partnership then everyone needs to get behind it,” Mohrfeld said Wednesday. “But I don’t want to put a dollar figure on it because I don’t know what that means for other entities.”

LCEDG already has the map and covered the cost of the project up front. Vantage Point Solutions, of South Dakota handled the mapping study. The new tool is a digital overlap that combines current census block information with additional layers showing information from the three county school districts where coverage actually exists to provide a more accurate picture of the census block coverage data vs. real time information.

LCEDG President Dennis Fraise said the next step is to analyze and formulate plans off the information. Those plans can be used to access federal and state funding to help target better coverage.

Currently, one part of area school districts plans to provide high-speed Internet to rural families for remote learning is to park buses with wi-fi service in different areas around the county.

Supervisor Rich Harlow said he’d he recently seen a television program that said about half the country is without broadband coverage despite information from the Federal Communications Commission that says there is greater coverage.

“When we look at that, we see that a lot of people, not only in America, but in Lee County, have dead spots,” Harlow said. “That’s important now because we are educating children by computer. If you don’t have high-speed Internet, how can you learn anything.”

In other action, supervisors:
• passed two measures to allow County Engineer Ben Hull to apply for grants for road projects. The first project is a $500,000 grading of a 1/2 mile of 255th Street near 160th Avenue, to reduce the peak on hill and make the intersection safer. The second was another road safety grant for $65,000 to join with Van Buren County to purchase traffic signals for road construction work.
• approved a $19,702 change order for work on the South Lee County Courthouse boiler replacement project for a piping system required for fire safety.

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