County discusses internet, fiber updates


Internet and fiber updates were discussed at the weekly Wednesday meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners.

Sam Bain, director of state government affairs with Charter Communications, said there are two projects they are currently working on in the Highland County area, one using the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which is through the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) version of that fund, and one using a state grant.

He said the RDOF project is worth about $11.1 million going to an estimated 2,732 locations in all of the county’s townships. Bain said the company’s walkout validations are finished and it is now in the design process. He also said there would be “a little bit” of underground construction and some work on aerial lines “mainly” in the northern part of the county near Leesburg.

He said there were also some activated locations in Salem, Hamer and Dodson townships. Bain said he couldn’t give an exact percentage on how far along they are, but they’re pushing through it.

He said it’s being worked on in 12 of the county’s 17 townships, which are Fairfield, Penn, Union, Liberty, Paint, Marshall, Washington, New Market, Hamer, Dodson, Salem and a handful of locations in Brushcreek. Bain said the deadline for this project is December 2025.

He said one of the issues Spectrum is working through is the pole permits which “can really delay things.” He said they’ve talked with pole owners at AEP and South Central Power to make sure that part is moving forward.

In terms of progress, he said they’re “more just getting started” on this project because of the pole permit issues.

“We’ve seen, not only with Spectrum and Charter, but we’ve also seen other companies that are taking an interest in getting our underserved areas of the county some better services,” commissioner Dave Daniels said. “You know, they continue to talk about this is no longer a luxury, this is a necessity and we’re glad that everybody is kind of stepping up and working together to provide service to our residents in a lot of those underserved areas.”

In other news, the board of commissioners approved the 2024 general and non-general budget in a Friday special meeting. Terry Britton, president of the board of commissioners, said the general fund for 2024 would be $14 million, with the non-general fund to be $50,363,728.90, for a total general and non-general budget of $64,363,728.90.

Ethan Reynolds, Southwest Ohio regional liaison for Governor Mike DeWine’s office, was in attendance to introduce himself and tell the commissioners to contact him if they need anything.

Daniels said the county filed for some capital budget requests and put them into the portal as requested by the House. He said they have “several” projects they believe are worth funding, including ones that look to enhance the parks and projects to increase public safety. One specific project Daniels mentioned was work to bring a MARCS Tower to the underserved area of Highland County that lacks service.

Highland County Auditor Alex Butler delivered the December sales tax receipts to the commissioners. He said the December receipts equaled $820,880, bringing the 2023 total to $9,394,398.30, which was $125,650 more than the 2022 total.

“Just for a little perspective, the difference between ‘20 and ‘21 was an 18 percent increase, $1.3 million and some change,” Butler said. “The difference between ‘21 and ‘22 was a 4.5 percent increase. Just shy of $400,000 was the difference. But the difference between 2022 and 2023 is 1.4 percent, just under $130,000. So, even though we did see an increase from ‘23 over ‘22, that increase is only 1.4 percent. Significantly less than the increase over the last couple of years. So, I think we’re starting to see that plateau.”

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.

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