County Mayor’s Notes – October 8th, 2020

The COVID-19 update follows the Broadband Grant Award update.

Broadband Grants Awarded
Over the last two newsletters, we have discussed the background as to why Cumberland County ended up with poor broadband service, and what has been done to make the area grant eligible.  Today I want to talk about grants awarded, including one that was just announced today!

First, today’s announcement!  The USDA announced at 2:00 PM today that a Reconnect grant has been awarded to Ben Lomand, this time in southwestern Cumberland County, Tennessee.  The grant amount is $1,936,789 with matching funds from Ben Lomand in the amount of $645,596 for a total of $2,582,385.  Combined with the grants detailed below, that is a total of $11,735,581.25 of grants and matches awarded (a portion of which is in the Putnam County section of Cumberland Cove) since February 13, 2020!  Ben Lomand and other companies have also invested money to expand service in Cumberland County without grant funding.

Reconnect grants are specifically for very rural areas.  Although the number of households serviced are generally much lower than the State grants, they provide much needed fiber infrastructure that can be used to build out other areas that are less rural.  This grant area includes 84 addresses and is 25.36 square miles.  Grant funding will be used to construct new state of the art Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) facilities. The new plant will include 73.5 miles of outside plant fiber, service drops, central office equipment, and customer premises equipment.  The dark green in the graphic is the area for this grant.  The light green is the area from the previous award that is discussed below.

People often ask me why I’m not forcing providers to service to their home with broadband, or why their area is not in one of the grant areas.  The truth is, I have no input in the decisions of where the providers wish to extend service.  We didn’t get into this situation overnight, and we won’t get out of it overnight, but we finally have providers that are interested in expanding their services here! 

This year, providers in Cumberland County have received four grants (including the one announced today) that will expand service in Cumberland County.  Ben Lomand has had the most success, but VEC/Twin Lakes received a grant award as well.

On February 13, 2020, Ben Lomand (aka VolFirst) received a USDA Reconnect grant for $2,240,407.  With matching funds of $746,803 that puts the total project cost invested in Cumberland County at $2,987,210.  This grant area covers approximately 100 square miles in Cumberland County.  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.

In April of 2020, Ben Lomand was awarded a State grant of $2 million to provide service in Cumberland County.  This is the project that was worked on for the 127 North area that will provide access to approximately 1,500 locations including businesses and households.  The two grants and matches total $4,987,210 that will be spent by Ben Lomand to provide service in Cumberland County.

The third grant was received by VEC/Twin Lakes to provide service in the Cumberland Cove area.  The grant amount is $3,332,789.00.  Combined with a match of $833,197.25, the total project amount is $4,165,986.25.  Even though a good portion of this project, and of Cumberland Cove, is in Putnam County, this is great news.  This grant was made possible by new money that became available for COVID-19 relief.  That means the work must be completed by December 15, 2020.

More work is being done on grant applications as well as other projects to help provide better broadband in Cumberland County.  Be sure to follow my updates to get the news as it happens.

I have talked a lot from my perspective about the work to provide better broadband to Cumberland County, but I am not the only one working on this issue.  I want to thank Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton and State Senator Paul Bailey for working hard on this issue and providing funding for state grant opportunities.  US Senator Marsha Blackburn, and US Congressman John Rose have strongly supported the efforts, and Cumberland County Commissioners are working to help as well.  It will take everyone working together to ensure Cumberland County gets the broadband service we deserve.

https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2020/10/08/trump-administration-invests-nearly-17-million-high-speed-broadband

COVID-19 Update (difference from previous day)
The following are the numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) for Cumberland County as of 2:00 PM today. The change from the prior day, not my prior newsletter, is in parenthesis.

Please continue social distancing and making wise choices to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

155 active cases (+12)
1,186 inactive/recovered (+11)
22 deaths officially reported (+1)
1,363 positive cases (+24) Note: I had a typo on the number of positive cases yesterday
61 hospitalizations (+0) *
23,990 negative tests (+241)
7.42% positivity rate – 7 day average
87.01% Inactive/Recovered
5.33% cumulative positivity rate (positive cases / positive cases + negative tests)
2.25% of residents have tested positive
0.26% of residents have active cases

These numbers are intended to be a brief summary of the information provided by the Tennessee Department of Health. More detailed information can be found at the online dashboard: https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html

School level COVID-19 data is now available online.  Click this link to see the information available for Cumberland County:

https://districtinformation.tnedu.gov/covid-information/search/-1/180

* Hospitalization data reflect the cumulative (total) number of cases of Cumberland County residents that were ever hospitalized from COVID-19. It does not reflect the number of people currently hospitalized. This does not mean the patient was hospitalized in Cumberland County. It means that a Cumberland County resident was hospitalized at some point.

Health Department Testing and Face Coverings
Masks/face coverings can help to slow the spread by slowing or stopping the droplets that carry the virus.  Free cloth masks are available upon request at the Health Department for those that want one. Stop by Monday through Friday from 8:00 am until 4:30 pm to pick one up for each individual in your household.

The local Health Department (1503 South Main Street) is conducting drive through testing, free of charge, Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM.   No doctor’s order is required, and no appointment is necessary. Anyone can be tested regardless of symptoms.

Thank you for being part of the solution and thank you for the opportunity to serve as your County Mayor.  If you are interested in hearing my thoughts and views on news, events, and activities in Cumberland County, please subscribe to my newsletter, and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you,

Allen Foster
Cumberland County Mayor
http://allenfoster.net