Kent Linking With Barry Ionia For Telecom Survey

May 20, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Kent County officials got the ceremonial check late last month. But Assistant County Administrator Al Vanderberg hopes the real one arrives before the end of next month.

Vanderberg is waiting for a check worth $231,000 that will come from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The MEDC money will come from the state’s LinkMichigan Initiative and will make up the lion’s share of a grant that will be used to survey the telecom infrastructure throughout Kent, Ionia and Barry counties.

“Then, also, to begin the planning process for extension of high-speed Internet service throughout all three counties, we want to network the three counties,” said Vanderberg.

Vanderberg explained that the survey wouldn’t just look at the rural areas of the counties, but at all locales. Why? Because portions of some cities and townships may already have broadband services in place, while other sectors of the same communities may not.

“We’re looking at networking everything that is there, and making sure it is accessible throughout the entire geographic area,” he said.

An $81,000 local matching grant has upped the total for the survey work to $312,000. Barry and Ionia counties chipped in with $25,000 each; the Urban Cooperation Board and The Right Place Program each gave $10,000; and the Frey Foundation donated $7,333.

Kent County gave $3,667 as a match to the Frey Foundation grant. Kent County will administer the funds for the project.

Vanderberg told the Business Journal that a slew of public, nonprofit and private organizations might participate in the three-county survey.

“There are at least 180 names on the list. Contacts have been made with those groups and right now we’re receiving letters of endorsements from them,” he said. “There is a list of participating organizations and a list of organizations that are expected to participate.”

Late last month, the MEDC reported that $1.8 million in LinkMichigan Telecom Grants have been offered to 13 counties.

“These community assistance planning grants are designed to help counties develop their own last-mile solutions, encouraging communities to link or leverage their local strategies to the statewide backbone initiative,” said MEDC President and CEO Doug Rothwell.

Vanderberg hopes that a final report will be ready eight months after the survey gets started, and that the plan will outline the telecom future for the three counties. Then the task will be to find other grants to implement the findings.

“We’ll see what we can do with this money when we seek consultants to do a good chunk of the work. It may be that the planning will be broken down into phases, too. It’s a pretty big apple,” he said.

Vanderberg also is hoping that the MEDC check will be in the mail soon. He is looking for it to arrive before June turns into July.

“They’ve already given us the big, pretty check,” said Vanderberg. “We have a very strong application and a lot of community buy-in from an enormous number of organizations.”           

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