In a ceremony on February 13, 2020 at Battle Mountain Farm in College Grove, TN, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that Ben Lomand Holdings, Inc. (you may be more familiar with the local name of VolFirst) was awarded the Broadband ReConnect grant for Cumberland County! United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (pictured) was on hand to make the grant announcements. The application process for this grant began back in May of 2019 with local support meetings held at both Crab Orchard Elementary and North Cumberland Elementary Schools. Many support letters were submitted from community leaders, local, state, and federal elected officials, business owners, real estate agents, and potential customers, to name a few. The data I gathered from the over 1,500 responses to my online broadband survey was also submitted. The Ben Lomand staff worked diligently with me and my office staff (thanks Beth and Torey!) to submit an application that would be competitive, and it worked! This truly was a community effort, as were all of the broadband grant applications that have been submitted this year.
The grant area covers approximately 100 square miles in Cumberland County. Grant funding will be used by Ben Lomand to construct new state of the art Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) facilities in order to enable offering high-speed broadband in an isolated, mountainous service area remotely located in the northeastern section of Cumberland County (see maps for specific areas).
The grant amount from the USDA Reconnect program is $2,240,407. Ben Lomand is providing matching funds in the amount of $746,803 for a total project cost of $2,987,210. A total of 222 homes and 561 people will have access to the new broadband services via the grant, but this is a win for even more households in Cumberland County as the build will put fiber infrastructure in place to allow Ben Lomand to provide service to many other customers after fulfilling the grant requirements.
The Broadband ReConnect Program is a pilot program offering unique federal financing options in the form of grants, loans, and combinations thereof to create or improve rural e-Connectivity for rural customers across America.
Thank you to Ben Lomand, USDA, and everyone that worked so hard to make this happen. There are still a lot of areas in Cumberland County with very poor broadband service, including the area where I live. Remember, this is the first step in this process. Even if you are in the same boat as me, we have progress. We have providers that are now interested in Cumberland County. We didn’t get in this mess overnight, and we won’t get out if it that way either, but relief is coming. We will continue to keep a hopeful watch for the state broadband grant award announcements that should be made known in March. Keep your fingers crossed!
Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter and I had worked together on a meeting with Frontier Executives since late last year. During the recent meeting, we detailed the frustrations that the public is having in both Putnam and Cumberland Counties with the poor service and lack of availability from Frontier. I stressed that these issues are more than anecdotal. They are real. The people of Cumberland and Putnam counties deserve better. The goal is for improved service or for a sale of Frontier. Mayor Porter and I were thankful to have strong support on this issue from other elected officials in attendance, including US Congressman John Rose, Tennessee Speaker Cameron Sexton, Tennessee Senator Paul Bailey, Tennessee Representative Ryan Williams, Crossville Mayor James Mayberry, and Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton. If you are interested, you can read the press release online here: http://www.ucbjournal.com/officials-challenge-frontier-to-improve-local-services/?fbclid=IwAR2BdTGLU9usxBl6a_DaA-q8j9U7E58JklIgrIDseVehbZU02oRadiRHCWk
The February 18th meeting of the full County Commission was held with all Commissioners in attendance except Rebecca Stone and Colleen Mall. The meeting began with about 45 minutes of comments concerning the Second Amendment and Refugee resolutions described below. Before comments began, I reminded everyone that we were all neighbors and that the expectation for those speaking was to be respectful. We don’t always have to agree but in Cumberland County we can at least be cordial with our disagreements. I’m proud to say that there were no arguments or outbursts, and everyone respectfully discussed the issues.
Last month, the resignation of Fourth District Board of Education Representative Josh Stone was announced along with the process to fill the empty seat. Since then, Anita Hale and Brian McDonald completed the paperwork to submit to fill the vacancy. There were no additional submissions at the meeting, so we moved on to hearing from the two candidates. The order of speaking was determined by random drawing with Mr. McDonald speaking first. Each candidate was allowed up to 10 minutes to address the Commission to discuss the appointment.
After the candidates spoke, Commissioners nominated individuals from the list of candidates. Nominations did not require a second. Only candidates nominated moved forward in voting. Commissioner Wilson nominated Hale, and Commissioner Patterson nominated McDonald. After nominations ceased, the vote was held and Anita Hale was appointed to the vacant seat. The vote was 12-4 with Commissioners York, Kyle Davis, Hyder, Threet, Seiber, Jack Davis, Lowe, Wilson, Sherrill, Baldwin, Cooper and Holbrook supporting Hale. Commissioners Norris, Gibson, Blalock, and Patterson voted for Mr. McDonald. I immediately administered the Oath of Office and all official documents were signed making the appointment official.
The following resolutions were presented to the Board of Commissioners for consideration (resolution sponsor in parenthesis):
RESOLUTION 02-2020-1 – Accepting offer(s) to purchase property owned by Cumberland County (Hyder). The Delinquent Tax Committee recommended approval of the following offers:
|Dana Warner||709 Keato Dr. – Tansi||$455.00||$45|
|Michael Matthews||Dragon Canoe – Renegade||$279.80||$45|
|Michael Matthews||Dragon Canoe – Renegade||$283.50||$45|
This will return the property to the tax rolls after being removed due to property taxes not being paid for several years. The resolution was approved unanimously.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-2 – Declaring Cumberland County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County (Kyle Davis and John Patterson). The resolution stated that the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners hereby expresses its desire to both the United States Government and the State of Tennessee to REFUSE to enact legislation that unconstitutionally restricts the rights of the Citizens of Cumberland County to bear arms as protected under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution. It further states that the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners hereby declare Cumberland County to be a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County”, meaning that Cumberland County will act within its constitutional and other legal rights to protect the Second Amendment for its Citizens. The resolution passed 15-1 with Commissioner Holbrook voting against.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-3 – No consent to refugee resettlement in Cumberland County (Patterson). This resolution stated that Cumberland County is opting out of resettlement of refugees due to economic constraints. The resolution passed 15-1 with Commissioner Holbrook voting against.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-4 – Offering a tribute to Lynn C. Hayes and Jesse B. Hayes by naming a section of Highway 68 from entrance to exit of Grassy Cove in their memory (Wilson). SP4 Lynn C. Hayes was killed on May 17, 1967 under hostile conditions in Binh Duong, Vietnam. He is buried in the Grassy Cove Cemetery and is memorialized on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall on panel 20E, line 16. SP4 Jesse B. Hayes was killed on January 9, 1969 under hostile conditions in Pleiku Province, South Vietnam. He was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery and is memorialized on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall on pillar XXII, middle panel, panel 35W, line 60. Jesse was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. The Commission unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Tennessee Department of Transportation designate the section of Highway 68 from entrance to exit of Grassy Cove in their memory.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-5 – Approving and adopting new Open Records Policy (Stone). Revisions have been made to the Open Records Policy by the Public Records Commission of Cumberland County. The revised policy was approved unanimously.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-6 – Budget Amendment, General Purpose School Fund, Damage Reimbursement $276.00 (Seiber). This money was received from individuals and moved back to the expense line. Approval was granted 16-0.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-7 – Budget Amendment, General Purpose School Fund, Food Pantry Donation 2 $1,000.00 (Lowe). This resolution unanimously accepted a donation from Kids Christmas, Inc. to assist with the food pantry program in the schools.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-8 – Budget Amendment, Central Cafeteria Fund, $2,500.00 (York). The schools received additional state funding from the 2020 Alternative Breakfast Grant for equipment, supplies, technology, and/or marketing assistance. The resolution was approved 16-0.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-9 – Budget Amendment, Central Cafeteria Fund, $4,041.00 (Hyder). Private funding was received from the Dairy Alliance/NFL Fuel UP to Play 60 Program to support the expansion of the school breakfast program. The resolution was approved unanimously.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-10 – Budget Amendment, Central Cafeteria Fund, $4,713.36 (Seiber). Private contributions were donated to pay outstanding student cafeteria charges. The resolution was approved 16-0.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-11 – Budget Amendment, General Purpose School Fund, Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration Grant $6,625.00 (Blalock). This resolution divided monies received from the center between SMHS and CCHS, the two high schools that were the original grant recipients. The resolution was approved unanimously.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-12 – Budget Amendment, Central Cafeteria Fund, $13,408.83 (Hyder). These funds came from the USDA to minimize charges incurred for storage and distribution of USDA foods from state contracted warehouses. The resolution was approved 16-0.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-13 – Budget Amendment, General Purpose School Fund, Middle School STEM Start-Up Grant $27,000.00 (Blalock). This money was received to strengthen the district’s middle school STEM program and was unanimously approved by the commission.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-14 – Budget Amendment, General Fund, Trustee’s Office $3,560.00 (York). The Trustee requested additional funding to upgrade computer technology in her office with $2,482 coming from the Trustee’s Other Contracted Services line and the balance of $1,078 coming from unassigned fund balance. The resolution was approved 16-0.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-15 – Budget Amendment, General Fund, Other Public Health & Welfare – Animal Shelter $7,125.00 (Seiber). This resolution, unanimously approved, accepted private donations to the Animal Shelter.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-16 – Budget Amendment, General Fund, Sheriff – Jail, $20,806.00 (Blalock). This resolution approved moving funds to complete construction of a multi-purpose out building at the Justice Center campus in a 16-0 vote.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-17 – Budget Amendment, General Fund, Community Development Block Grant, $468,865.00 (Lowe). This resolution accepted the CDBG grant for water line extension by South Cumberland Utility District in the southern part of the county and was unanimously approved. The money will flow through the county for the project.
RESOLUTION 02-2020-18 – Approving Contract with AMB-MARS Service Agreement. This resolution extended the contract with our EMS third party billing company by three years. New computer hardware and training are included as a part of the contract. The resolution was approved 16-0+.
As reported in the last Budget Committee meeting, local option sales tax collections came in at $827,204 which is $12,456 above estimated revenue. Overall, we are approximately $65,735 above the budgeted amount year to date. Hotel/Motel tax collections are approximately 53.7% of the $817,283 budget as revised down due to last year’s collection. So far $439,206 has been received. Property taxes stand at 62% of the budgeted amount. Prisoner boarding is at 43.9% of budget at $325,923 after six months of revenue has been collected. EMS collections for the month were $483,961. This puts year to date collections at $2,817,410 which is $484,079 above budget.
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Cumberland County Mayor