PENNINGTON GAP - The town of Pennington Gap has been awarded a $25,000 grant to study the community's need for broadband Internet service and has agreed to retain a Blacksburg company to conduct the study.
During the Pennington Gap Town Council's monthly meeting on Tuesday, Town Manager Tina Rowe told council members that since being awarded the grant, the planning committee has advertised for proposals from companies to do the study, obtained those, and agreed to award the study to Design Nine of Blacksburg.
The grant was awarded from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and if the town meets all the goals of this phase of the study, it will be eligible for phase two funding for another study. Both phases must be completed before the town can seek construction funding, she said.
Rowe said the VDHCD has created the Virginia Rural Broadband Planning Initiative, a comprehensive telecommunications planning effort that will allow communities to identify and develop all elements necessary to create a successful community broadband network.
Phase one tasks include a needs assessment and asset inventory; an analysis of current and future business and professional uses and applications; an assessment of community computer literacy and identification of technology education needs; and an assessment of the need for, and nature of, investment in broadband infrastructure.
In other matters, Rowe told council members that she met recently with various parties interested in developing an all-terrain vehicle recreational trail. Rowe said the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has a fund for these kinds of trails, but a plan is required before a grant can be awarded.
To that end, the Community Design Assistance Center at Virginia Tech has agreed to create a plan for the town, but the center won't be able to start on that until June. The hope is, Rowe said, to develop a trail system similar to the Hatfield/McCoy trail system in West Virginia and to use Leeman Field as a trailhead.
Council members also learned that only one bid was received for construction of concession stands and a comfort station at Leeman Field, and that bid was over the amount budgeted for the project. Council members agreed to re-advertise the project and to add $3,000 to the engineering task order for the project.
Council members instructed Rowe to do a comparison study of what town employees across the region are being paid for their work so the council can compare that to what Pennington Gap employees are being paid and possibly make adjustments to bring the wages in line for comparable work in the region.
Rowe reported that workers will begin March 1 installing road name signs for the implementation of 911 service in the county, but she did not know when that work will begin in town.
Councilman Mike Reuille reported that buzzards have stopped roosting on a cell phone tower in town and said hopefully the issue is resolved.
Town engineers reported that they are still searching for additional funding for a proposed greenway to Leeman Field and that preliminary design is under way, and that a preliminary architectural report on the old Lee Theater building is being finalized.
The meeting began with a remembrance for former mayor Fred Williams, who recently passed away, and concluded with a closed session to discuss potential litigation and to discuss personnel.