internet map

This graphic from the Connecting Appalachia website shows the large percentage of the county’s area that has slow internet service.

LOGAN — The Hocking County Board of Commissioners discussed the formation of a county broadband committee last Tuesday morning, Sept. 28.

Buckeye Hills Regional Council (BHRC) Broadband Coordinator Ryan Collins joined the board via Zoom to discuss the county’s broadband concerns and the committee’s future. Though nothing is official yet, the committee of four to five volunteers will assess the county’s broadband needs.

Board President Jeff Dickerson voiced hopes of forming a diverse and informed committee, adding that he would like to have a member associated with the Logan-Hocking School District to join.

Commissioner Sandra Ogle voiced concern over the affordability of potential internet services, especially to those in more rural areas in the county; Collins assured that pricing is something BHRC is taking into consideration when searching for internet service providers (ISP).

The committee’s conception follows a Sept. 14 meeting at which BHRC presented Hocking County’s broadband profile via Zoom. BHRC Executive Director Misty Crosby, BHRC Broadband Coordinator Ryan Collins and Reid Consulting Group Communications Lead Sean O’Malley joined the commissioners Sept. 14 to present the county’s internet access data.

According to BHRC’s Hocking County’s Connecting Appalachia County Profile, 84% of its populated area and 50% of its households do not have access to minimum internet speeds of 25/3 megabits per second (mbps). Within the county there are 406 square miles of populated area, 341 of which are “unserved.”

Commissioner Gary Waugh is a member of BHRC’s Executive Committee, which has 15 members representing the two largest cities in the District, eight counties and five private sectors, according to BHRC’s website.

The commissioners also clarified their office’s mask policy on Sept. 28 as well, following their mask requirement for Hocking County Courthouse entry on Sept. 23 (masks are available at the door).

Masks will also be required to enter the commissioners’ office and meeting room (commissioners’ chambers). The commissioners’ employees will also be required to wear masks when sharing their workspace with others.

Last Thursday, Sept. 30, the commissioners heard from Hocking County Health Department Health Commissioner Doug Fisher on the state of the coronavirus in the county.

When Dickerson asked Fisher’s opinion on wearing masks, Fisher explained that, as the county’s health commissioner, “you’re talking with somebody who cares about our deaths, cares about the age(s) of our deaths, cares about what families are going through, and so on.”

Fisher said he recommends both vaccinated and unvaccinated people exercise as many health measures as they can — anything “to put layers between you and that disease.”

On Tuesday the health department reported 200 active COVID-19 cases in the county; compared to a week prior when Fisher saw the commissioners (Sept. 28), the county had 268 active cases. The health department also reported Tuesday that 14 people are hospitalized, two of whom have been vaccinated (not all hospitalizations are within the county); and that 12 people have died of the virus since Aug. 1, confirmed via death certificates.

Despite sinking numbers, Fisher does not yet lean toward cautious optimism. “I’m afraid to say that things are getting better,” he said.

According to preliminary data from the Ohio Department of Health’s (ODH) Coronavirus Dashboard, as of Tuesday the county has seen 3,333 confirmed cases of the virus, 2,772 presumed recovered cases, 214 hospitalizations and 72 deaths.

On Tuesday Commissioner Ogle read the September report from the Hocking County Lodging Tax Administrator’s Office.

There are 1,282 known lodging units in the county, including six hotels/motels with an additional 289 rooms making a total 1,567 units in the county; 14 units are unregistered and the monthly payment spreadsheet shows 367 businesses, 362 of which are paying taxes and the remaining 113 are delinquent. Four new businesses registered in September and five began paying taxes.

The next commissioners meeting will be today (Thursday) at 9:30 a.m. in the Commissioners Chambers, Hocking County Courthouse, 1 E. Main St. Meetings are open to the public and livestreamed on the commissioners’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HockingCommissioners/, where they can also be watched at a later date.

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