Broadband access pursued

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Larry Tucker knows that the world of broadband technology remains just out of reach for some rural Allen Countians.
He’s one of them.
The Humboldt City Administrator shared his views Tuesday with Allen County commissioners about an upcoming SEK Broadband Committee meeting Dec. 18 at Greenbush.
The committee will decide then whether to apply for federal stimulus funding, develop different strategies or dissolve altogether, Tucker said. Committee members are inviting their respective county officials from 12 southeast Kansas counties to attend the Dec. 18 meeting.
Smaller meetings have met with limited success.
“We figured it would be better to have a regional approach, to pool as many elected officials and other representatives as possible in one location,” Tucker said.
The issue, Tucker said, is that broadband access typically ends at city limits. Tucker, for example, lives south of Humboldt, out of range of wireless Internet providers in the area. Satellite-based service, meanwhile, is too costly a venture for many residents, Tucker said.
“What we wind up with is a patchwork approach to broadband across the state,” Tucker said.
The committee is seeking funding that would not compete with private Internet service providers, Tucker stressed. Rather, it would provide opportunities where private businesses may not be interested in reaching, he said.
“It’s important to remember that broadband access means more than just the Internet,” Tucker said, citing video streaming capabilities.
Having greater broadband access could be considered an economic development tool as well, Tucker added.
Commissioner Gary McIntosh said he likely would attend the Dec. 18 meeting.

ON ANOTHER topic, Commissioner Dick Works asked Tucker about Humboldt’s application for Community Development Block Grant funds to build a new community center on the north part of town. Works asked if the county could assist with the application with the thought the building could be used as a community and senior citizens center.
The grant application already has been filed, Tucker said. However, if rejected, the city would be eager to work with county in future endeavors.
The county will seek bids to determine who will serve as an attorney to represent adults charged with misdemeanor crimes and guardian ad litem services in Allen County District Court. Currently, Bret Heim represents the adults in misdemeanor cases. Chuck Apt provides guardian ad litem services.
Commissioners noted Heim and Apt have handled those roles for several years.
“It hasn’t been bid for a while,” Commissioner Works said.
Commissioners approved an easement to accommodate Humboldt’s new walking trail that briefly enters county property. The policy ensures that the easement goes back to county control if the walking trail is ever removed, County Counselor Alan Weber said.
Commissioners also approved a service agreement with Tri-Valley Developmental Services, a routine affair completed each year to enable Tri-Valley to continue to provide services for the developmentally disabled in Allen County.

WITH 2010 deemed “year of the hospital” in which county and Iola officials will study whether Allen County Hospital meets the needs of the future, McIntosh is eager to get the process started.
McIntosh proposed a planning session, or several, to start talks.
While nothing concrete has been decided, commissioners Works and Rob Francis agreed.
“There’s a lot of momentum and a lot of good will,” Works said. “We don’t want to hesitate.”