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Louisa Broadband Authority says it needs help

Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 9:49 am

broadbandThe seven-member Louisa County Broadband Authority cannot perform the amount of work required to bring Internet to the county by themselves.

During the authority’s Aug. 5 meeting, members discussed hiring an unpaid intern, contemplated extending a contract with their consulting firm Design 9, and hiring a temporary paid “executive director.”

Louisa District Representative Mary Johnson proposed hiring an unpaid intern to help the board collect data they need to move forward with Internet expansion throughout the county, citing that the job at hand would be beneficial to that person’s course of study.

“It would focus on being a learning experience for that person,” Johnson said.

County Attorney Sandra Robinson suggested that the amount of work they are expecting a student to accomplish would probably require a paid internship of a graduate student.

The authority also addressed the possible extension of a contract with the consulting firm Design 9, which helped the authority thus far, and whose last action was to create a proforma, or business plan, for the authority. Some authority members have expressed skepticism of the firm’s financial information for the county. Furthermore, members seem concerned that the contract extension has no financial parameters.

“I’m uncomfortable with an open contract unless there’s a cap,” Supervisor Stephanie Koren (Mineral District) and board liaison said. “Are we satisfied with his work product?”

Broadband Authority Chairman Melvin Buruss told Koren that not everyone in the authority was completely unsatisfied with the firm’s work thus far.  Burruss said that any skepticism with the financial information provided to the authority was moreover the authority’s fault.

“I said that’s mostly our fault because we didn’t give the feedback and speak up when he was presenting to us two or three times. Everybody just sat here and listened,” Burruss said.“We need to do something otherwise we’re sitting in the water,”

Staff liaison Bob Hardy pointed out that without a business plan, the authority would have an uphill battle acquiring grant funds that come in the form of loans, and therefore, need not hire someone to write grant proposals.

“They get tons of applications that say, ‘Hey, give me $12 million and I’ll build a system,’” Hardy said.

Hardy told the board that his reference checks on Design 9 revealed the firm has had great success in grant writing.

“There’s no sense in us meeting anymore if in fact we don’t have a plan to move forward with,” Burruss said.

Shortly thereafter, Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes (Patrick Henry District) and board liaison suggested to the authority that they approach the board of supervisors to ask for funds to pay someone to “run the show for us.”

“I think we need a person day-to-day working on this,” Barnes said. “You all have done a good job, but I think we’re at the point now where we’re meeting once a month, doing those things, but we need somebody day-to-day.”

Barnes also suggested to the authority that they hire this person on a temporary basis.

Read full story in the August 13 edition of The Central Virginian