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Sunday January 23rd, 2022 9:57AM

County-wide broadband and sewer funding newest quest for Hall County

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

GAINESVILLE – Hall County is seeking some of the $2.4-billion received by the State of Georgia from the federal government under the American Rescue Plan of 2021.

Hall County’s Assistant County Administrator Zach Propes told members of the Hall County Commission during Monday’s work session that two applications totaling nearly $63.8-million will be submitted if approved by commissioners at Thursday evening’s voting session.

Propes said both applications will be submitted through the Georgia Fiscal Recovery Fund Grant program.

One application is for expanding broadband service within the county, a request for $21,304,381; the second application is for $42,480,000 and is intended for infrastructure projects, specifically to fund a quartet of sewer projects under consideration. 

“Friendship Road sewer, Mulberry Creek back-pumping station, Spout Springs wastewater treatment facility expansion and Athens Highway sewer,” Propes said, detailing where the infrastructure-related funds would go.

As to broadband expansion, Propes said, “The goal is to add an additional 13,246 customer locations across Hall County.”

“Nearly 100-percent will be covered,” Propes said in response to a question from the commission about the number of customers who will benefit from the broadband expansion.

Communications giant AT&T is partnering with Hall County to bring the increased broadband to areas currently without or with inadequate service by contributing $12,763,620 to the effort.  Hall County plans to add an additional $6,618,370 of funds received earlier from the federal government, bringing the total cost of the broadband project to $40,686,379.  

When asked after the work session about the logistics of broadband expansion, such as where modems and routers would be staged to provide wider coverage, Propes explained, “AT&T definitely approached the commission and administration regarding the whole proposal, so they are the ones that have the details about items like that.”

(Information about coverage details and monthly subscription rates, which likely will be income-based, was not available at the time of this writing.)

“We listened to their proposal and thought that it would be a worthy application for the county to support,” he added.

If the award is approved officials with AT&T say the project will take approximately 14-months to complete.

In the second application Hall County will be committing $10,620,000 of SPLOST and ARP funds in hope that the county’s large total contribution (25%) will improve its chance of being awarded state funds.  “We’re trying to make our application as competitive as possible,” Propes said.

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