Should ARPA money be used for broadband in rural areas of Franklin County?

July 25 – The broadband survey results for Franklin County will be unveiled today in a couple of different meetings.

Franklin County Commissioner John Flannery said, “We’ll compile some information, then we’ll do a public service survey, get some input back and decide to plan moving forward. If we’re going to invest some of the state’s money that’s out there for broadband and try to get some projects done with Comcast and some of the other broadband internet providers or not. Whether the county gets involved in it as an oversight or not, that will be up to Comcast. They received the funds from the state, the county can team with them and coordinate with them and we can get some funding from the state as well for the project if we decide to go that route. But I think right now the most important part is to educate the public on what the study found and to get their input and decide if we want to move forward or not.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “I’m torn here because certainly it’ll serve rural Pennsylvania, but it’s the ARPA money that funded this study and I’d imagine you’re in the same boat as I am. Well, on one hand we do need broadband for the rural areas but on the other hand, is this the most effective use of this COVID money from years ago? We have to spend it and if we don’t spend it, we’ve got to give it back. I’ve got heartburn all over the place with this on this one.” 

Flannery agreed, “So do I. When you look at it, and you say it’s ARPA money, it might not be related to COVID, but in a sense it is because what we found out is when they made these kids stay home from school, these kids out in the rural areas, I’ve lived in Franklin County for 30 years and three different homes. In those three different homes, I didn’t have access to the internet. I didn’t have Comcast. I had to figure out other ways, whether it be satellite, or whatever it may be. So it kind of did expose those weaknesses through the COVID pandemic.”

In addition to the broadband meeting today, the Franklin County Commissioners will meet tomorrow at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

One topic for discussion will be the drug and alcohol program in Franklin County. 

Flannery explained, “They’re starting a new program. The commissioners voted to approve a consultant. Some of those fees are paid for through grant funding for the consultant to help us with those costs to train instructors to start a new program called Too Good for Drugs. It’ll be in the schools. I think we start it in the fall, K through 12, it’s a school program. So just trying to educate kids on the dangers of drugs and how to do it. They’re able to use past data. It’s supposed to be the newest, most innovative way to be able to get the word out there and work with these kids to keep them out of trouble.”

The program will begin in kindergarten and go through seniors in high school. 

On Thursday there will be two graduates from the Good Wolf Treatment Court. 

Flannery said, “I’ve witnessed this program. I believe it’s a 12 step program. I’ve seen some of the kids go through it or adults, whatever they may be. I can tell you it’s intense. These kids go through a rigorous program if they want to graduate. It’s very, very impressive. So I encourage people to get out.”

The graduation will be at 5 p.m. on July 27 at the Franklin County Judicial Center, 14 North Main Street. 

Flannery said, “If you want to witness a good program, come see this, especially if anybody in your life has been affected by drugs or alcohol. It keeps kids out of jail. It’s really, really a good program.” 

The Franklin County Visitors Bureau met yesterday and Flannery is on that board. 

He said, “Room tax this year is up 10%. If you put that into numbers just halfway through the year, and we haven’t even hit the July numbers yet, this is through the first half of the year, we brought in $443,000 a year ago. It’s up to $485,000 so far this year. It’s a big number for room tax revenue in Franklin County. So we got a lot of visitors coming. That’s a great thing.”