During its recent regular meeting, the Warren County Board of Commissioners approved a North Carolina Department of Information Technology GREAT Grant agreement with Charter/Spectrum for broadband expansion in Warren County. American Rescue Plan Act funding will be used to cover the required county match.

GREAT refers to Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology grant funding awarded by the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband infrastructure office.

Information included in the meeting’s agenda packet lists the total cost for the project at approximately $5.4 million. The project will be funded by a $4 million GREAT grant, Charter/Spectrum investment of approximately $1.2 million and the county match of $250,000 (ARPA funds).

According to the Broadband Infrastructure Office website, the North Carolina General Assembly appropriates $350 million from the American Rescue Plan Act for the GREAT Grant program. Awards are made within eligible economically-distressed counties in areas unserved with broadband at speeds of 25 megabytes per second download and 3 megabytes per second upload. The program encourages partnerships with counties, nonprofits or other internet service providers. Grants require matching investments from private broadband provider grantees, leveraging funding to deploy infrastructure to North Carolina households, businesses and farms in the most rural and remote areas of the state.

Last year, Spectrum Southeast, LLC (Charter Communications) was awarded a GREAT grant to deploy broadband services to approximately 1,434 households and businesses in Warren County.

In addition to the GREAT grant program, Warren County is also benefitting from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which offers federal communications subsidies for broadband enhancements. In 2021, Spectrum was named the RDOF service provider for Warren County and most of North Carolina. The RDOF funding supports a build out of a fiber network to eligible areas, covering approximately 2,500 Warren County households.

Justin DeLancey, Charter Communications’ senior manager of State Government Affairs, said that together, the GREAT Grant and RDOF programs would cover a large area of Warren County.

He added that walk-out for the GREAT Grant project has been completed. DeLancey said last year that this part of the project involved physically driving or walking every road in the county to determine what areas are currently served by internet and where there is no internet service.

The work also included studying the height of local power poles, where fiber optic cables will be attached.

Last week, DeLancey told commissioners that the project is now in the design phase, which also involved obtaining necessary permits.

He said that the design phase typically takes four to six months. Much of this time involves the permitting process.

“Expect to see work in around six to 10 months, in general, to pull fiber in the county,” DeLancey said.

In other business, the board:

• Approved an amendment to the FY 2023 budget that: increase appropriations in the health department budget for additional state grants received from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; appropriates $75,000 in the Kerr Area Transportation Authority budget for the additional funds requested; appropriates $22,300 in the recreation budget for the purchase of new scoreboards in the John Graham Gym to be utilized by the Vance-Granville Community College basketball team; appropriates $10,000 in the Warren County public schools’ budget for revised allocation to cover classroom modernization, painting and project management at two schools; appropriates $25,000 in the Warren County Emergency Medical Services budget for a grant received from Health Resources and Services Administration to implement a follow-up care protocol.

• Approved a $79,017 contract with Rightmyer Machine Rentals, Inc. for driveway paving at the Warren County Transfer Station.

• Approved an updated Water Shortage Response Plan as required by the state with accompanying resolution.

• Approved bylaws for governance and operation of the Potentially Dangerous Dog Appeals Board of Warren County. The board was established to evaluate appeals to decisions by the Animal Control director to declare dogs as potentially dangerous.

• Scheduled a public hearing for June 5 for a rezoning request from Residential to Neighborhood Business for three parcels (19.488 acres) located at 1612 Eaton Ferry Road.

• Approved an amended Roanoke Wildwood Fire Protection Control that takes into consideration services the department is not providing at this time. The revised contract is in the amount of $27,500 for a three-year period that ends June 30, 2024. The original contract was for $35,000.

• Appointed the following to the Potentially Dangerous Dog Appeals Board: William Landis as a regular member serving a two-year term; and Goble Lane and Donna Delia as alternates serving two-year terms.

• Appointed Barbara Espinosa to a first three-year term on the Planning Board (May 1, 2023-April 30, 2026.

• Appointed William Landis from primary alternate to Planning Board member for a first three-year term (Feb. 1, 2023-Jan. 31, 2026.

• Approved a resolution recognizing May 7-13 as National Travel and Tourism Week.

• Approved the following proclamations: May as National Tennis Month, May 1-7 as Hurricane Preparedness Week and May 21-27 at Emergency Medical Services Week.