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Granville commissioners approve Open Broadband agreement

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OXFORD — The Granville County Board of Commissioners took one step closer to supplying broadband internet to the more rural parts of the county when it unanimously approved a partnership with Open Broadband at its meeting Monday.

The decision came after more than a year-long deliberation of needs for the county including consultations though the Kerr-Tar Council of Governments, which Granville County is a part of and includes Person, Vance, and Warren Counties.

The draft of the agreement includes standards that Open Broadband would adhere to such as quarterly progress reports to the board on construction progress, customer satisfaction, technical support, and service quality. The county has already allocated $250,000 in next fiscal year’s budget to cover the first year of costs for the project, which is estimated to be completed in 4-5 years.

“The county will work with Open Broadband to identify sectors of the county where broadband is in most demand,” County Manager Michael Felts told the board. “We will be addressing the entire County but we also want to make sure we’re hitting areas that are undersized or unserved as part of this process.”

Also part of the agreement would be $188,000 in grant funding per year for four years and fixed rates for customer services. These rates would start at a minimum of $80 per month for a 25Mbps plan with a one-time $150 installation charge. An annual review before appropriating grant funds from the second year onward will also be required. Opportunities for local municipalities to share costs or purchase broadband hotspots will come according to the agreement.

Oxford resident Judith Abate spoke before the vote urging the commissioners to approve the broadband agreement so as to be better connected from a technological standpoint in the more rural parts of the county.

“I live three houses down from Person County,” Abate said. “I’m at the virtual end of Century Link’s line and while the Wi-Fi works well, it’s very slow. So I can’t stream anything on my devices. So I hope you can get going on this because there is a huge need.”

The board approved denial of interest in purchasing property from the county board of education. This included the “Creedmoor Annex” at 109 Park Ave. and property at 811 Crescent Drive adjacent to South Granville High School. According to State law, when a school property is declared as surplus, the county commissioners are afforded the first opportunity to purchase them if desired.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” Commissioner Timothy Karan said as the board was shown photos of the Creedmoor Annex in its current state. “There’s no parking lot and from an exterior standpoint, it needs a lot of work. There is potential to turn the building into an office suite.”

Karan also made the motion to accept the county manager’s recommendation not to purchase the properties. Proceeds from sale of school property would be mandated to be spent on capital outlay matters (repairs and maintenance).

In appointments, the board approved Justin Luger to replace Bryce Mendenhall on the County Fire Services Committee, Thomas Parrish was reappointed to the County Jury Commission, Jonathan Carver was reappointed to the Aeronautics Authority, and Debbie Butler was appointed to the Vance-Granville Community College Board of Trustees.

The next regular meeting of the Granville County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 1 at the Granville County Expo and Convention Center, 4185 U.S. Highway 15 South, Oxford.