Funding documentation expected next week,SCABC continues to move broadband project forward

Published 8:25 pm Thursday, July 31, 2014

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By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
The South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC) is expecting documentation next week from its private partner “solidifying” 85 percent funding for a broadband project.
Dr. Aaron D. McCall, managing director of the SCABC, made the announcement Thursday at a meeting of the SCABC executive board of directors held at the Fort Deposit Municipal Complex.
“As we move forward, we are expecting this week coming up… our partner (Oasis) to present to us signed documents solidifying the 85 percent funding,” McCall said,
He told the executive board that once funded, all obligations of the SCABC would be addressed.
Following the announcement, the executive board took actions to appoint committees to seek federal funding for the other 15 percent of the project costs and to set protocols for the application of any grant funds received.
In addition, the board approved an agreement with SCABC attorney Tyrone Means to pursue possible litigation against original broadband grant recipient, Trillion Communications, pending approval of that agreement by SCABC attorney Prince Chestnut.
McCall said Means has requested to use $5,000 in funds on deposit with his firm in a trust fund for that purpose.
Executive Board member Louis Maxwell, who serves as chairman of the Macon County Commission, requested that all current agreements and contracts between individuals and the SCABC be reviewed.
He said, “I just want to emphasize we need the attorney to look — and the board needs to look at all these agreements.” He said, “If we’re not satisfied with it we need to modify it now.”
The Grant Protocol Committee approved includes SCABC Executive Board President Charlie King Jr.; Ricky Powell, vice chairman of the Wilcox County Commission; David Daniel of the Hayneville Town Council; and Maxwell.
The Legislative Delegation Committee approved includes Maxwell; Walter S. Hill, mayor of Mosses; Daniel and George Evans, mayor of Selma.
The original project to construct 2,200 miles of fiber-optic broadband network in Butler, Crenshaw, Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Lowndes, Macon and Wilcox counties was to be funded by a $59 million in federal grant and $27 million in matching funds.
While funding to grant recipient Trillion Communications was terminated in October of 2012, it was announced in May of this year that the SCABC broadband project would now include 17 counties and the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians.
The SCABC is now a three year-old cooperative capital district whose purpose is to own and manage a community-owned telecommunications infrastructure that will use an integrated fiber optic and wireless network to provide high speed connectivity to every home, business and governmental agency in the South Central Alabama District.
The project will now include the entities of Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Escambia, Green, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter and Wilcox counties and the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians.
McCall reported on survey efforts to establish service zones in the new project area. Among those he’s already worked out are Lowndes County with service zones in White Hall, Lowndesboro, Fort Deposit, Hayneville and Mosses and Dallas County with service zones in Valley Grande, Orrville, Selma Northwest, Selma Northeast, Selma Southwest and Selma Southeast.
McCall told the executive board that BTOP (the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) and NTIA (the National Telecommunications and Information Administration) do not have a negative opinion of the SCABC.
“If we have a problem,” McCall said, “it is locally from people who do not understand what SCABC is, how SCABC works, that SCABC does not and did not receive any money nor handle any money at that time.”
In addition to McCall and Chestnut, present for Thursday’s executive board meeting were Hill, Maxwell, Daniel, King, Fort Deposit Mayor Fletcher Fountain,
Public attending the meeting were Mary Brumby, Josephine McCall and Linda Lawrence.

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