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Bedford County has made out its economic stimulus wish list and Internet broadband coverage is on it.
In fact, according to County Administrator Kathleen Guzi, this is at the top of the list. Guzi notes that broadband coverage is spotty in the county. Some areas simply don’t have the population density to make it economically viable for private business to make this service available. The county’s mountainous topography adds to the challenge.
Guzi said the county is looking at a public-private partnership and likens it to the effort to bring electricity to rural areas in the 1930s. In this case, the emphasis will be on the private side and Bedford County does not intend to be a permanent broadband provider. The public side of the equation will give the private side the boost it needs to make it economically feasible. After the first couple of years, the county will step aside and leave it as an all private venture.
“We want to facilitate,” she said.
Guzi said that the under-served areas of the county are scattered, but she believes multiple carriers will want to work with them.
“I can see us attacking a couple of areas at the same time,” she commented.
This isn’t exactly a “shovel-ready” project, but planning is well underway. The supervisors tasked the Economic Development Authority (EDA), last fall, to look develop plans for providing broadband coverage to the entire county. Guzi said the EDA staff is working with the Region 2000 Economic Development Council on this project.
Bedford County is asking the federal government for $8 million.
The county is also asking the federal government for $7 million to run natural gas lines to the New London Business and Technology Center. Guzi said that some businesses may need natural gas for a fuel, or prefer it. Making this available will make the center more attractive and give the county another tool that it can use to convince businesses to set up shop there.
The Bedford County Public Service Authority (PSA) also has some items on the county’s wish list. Three of them are, according to Brian Key, the PSA’s director are “shovel-ready.” Design work on those is either complete or nearly complete. One is a small sewer line in Forest called “Homestead Sewer” (near Coleman Adams Construction’s office). The second is a waterline extension in Stewartsville for a neighborhood called “Waywood Hills” which has problems with its wells. The third is a neighborhood waterline extension in New London for “Jubal Early Drive” where the residents have met the requirements of PSA’s Neighborhood Line Extension Policy.
Key has also included five projects that have not yet been designed. They are:
• A waterline from Moneta to Bedford City along Route 122.
• A waterline from New London to Bedford City along Route 460.
• A waterline for the Howard Drive community in Boonsboro (where residents are having well problems).
• A waterline for the Heightview Drive and Country View Estates neighborhoods in New London (where the residents are having well problems).
• A waterline in Huddleston from the vicinity around Mariners Landing to the Mountain View Shores subdivision.
Guzi said she expects any federal money to flow to Bedford County through the state. She said that she is sure that something will happen, but many questions about how the money will be handled remain to be answered.