LOGAN — The Hocking County Board of Commissioners met only once this week on Wednesday.
All three commissioners were present — though not physically, as board President Jeff Dickerson called in from Louisiana, he said.
The commissioners tended to business as usual – paying the bills – and read a letter from a Haydenville Road resident inquiring about land bordering the Wayne National Forest.
“I live... down beside the old brickyard. From what I’ve seen, the trails at that property lead straight to Wayne National Forest trails, I was wondering if I could use the trails on your property to access Wayne National Forest trails,” Commissioner Sandra Ogle read the letter aloud.
The author also inquired about purchasing some of the property. Commissioner Ogle said the commissioners can’t let someone use the trails, that she isn’t opposed to selling property, and that the board will look into the inquiry. Ogle also moved to not allow people to ride on the property, due to liability.
The commissioners also read a request from American Electric Power (AEP) for a letter of support regarding Ohio’s House Bill No. 2, which expands broadband infrastructure across the state by providing grant funding to internet and utility providers to cover their “last mile” of broadband construction.
The bill was sponsored by Hocking County’s state representative Brian Stewart (R-78), The Logan Daily News previously reported. The letter, read by Commissioner Ogle, said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for increased broadband access as children transition to learning at home, and many workers were encouraged to work remotely with limited high speed consecutive options. Our communities have tried to fill the gap by installing public access points, but these access points don’t address the larger economic development opportunities and neither the benefits of increasing access to broadband throughout Ohio in underserved areas.
“Electric companies are building data, networks and installing fiber optic cable to support the electric grid. House Bill No. 2 leverages these assets by clearly creating a framework for additional utility fiber infrastructure to be built. The additional investment that utilities would make to implement broadband framework in the bill is cost-effective and subject to oversight similar to other grant applications. Allowing electric utilities to apply to the Development Service Agency (DSA) for grant dollars to construct mile-middle broadband infrastructure would drive down the cost of projects and allow internet service providers to focus on their investment on providing access to Ohioans currently without high-speed internet.”
The letter also encouraged that House Bill No. 2 be amended. The board signed the letter onto their letterhead. Commissioner Gary Waugh remarked that broadband is always a pressing issue regarding development in Hocking County.
“The whole southeast quadrant of Ohio’s in the same mess. If you go from here to Marietta, all you hear (about) is broadband, broadband, broadband,” Waugh said.
Waugh added that the board has spoken with state Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-20) about broadband. Schaffer has been pushing the issue of broadband access, Waugh said. Schaffer represents Fairfield, Guernsey, Hocking, Morgan, Muskingum counties and parts of Athens and Pickaway counties
The next board of commissioners meeting will be Thursday, April 8 at 9:30 a.m. Meetings are open to the public with limited capacity. They are also livestreamed on the commissioners’ Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/hockingcommissioners/.
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