The two major topics at the Mingo County Commission meeting Wednesday morning shared a common thread during each of their discussions — that of the internet service and coverage.

Billy Carrico, with the Pikeville, Kentucky, hub of Teleworks USA, addressed the commission about setting up a job fair at the courthouse and possibly expanding Teleworks USA into Mingo County. Also, John Webster, External Affairs Manager for American Electric Power in West Virginia, spoke to the commissioners in reference to a feasibility study conducted by the company that could help extend broadband coverage in Mingo County.

According to Carrico, Teleworks USA is a company that connects the local labor force with national companies that offer work-at-home positions. While the program he oversees is based in Pikeville and serves mostly Eastern Kentucky, there are already Mingo County residents being employed by national companies that were sourced via Teleworks.

“These are legitimate work at home jobs that pay around $12 per hour and many of them are with Fortune 500 companies,” he explained to the commission. “We vet every company.”

He said Teleworks is part of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program and that agency is looking to expand Teleworks’ service region.

“They are looking toward going north or south,” Carrico told the commissioners. “We do anything we can to diversify Appalachia. To me the logical choice would be to go east toward Mingo County and I hope to establish a relationship with Mingo County.”

Carrico, a former Mingo County resident, said Eastern Kentucky and Mingo County share many similarities such as both areas suffering from depressed economics following the demise of the coal industry.

However, Carrico said that local residents who are offered work at home positions with these companies will need consistent, reliable, high-speed internet connectivity.

Webster said that AEP needs to increase its fiber optics network for better efficiency within the company. However, he said that because they will be expanding into areas that are underserved with internet access there are possibility of working out arrangements with internet companies as “last mile” providers.

“We are not looking at getting in the internet business,” he said. “The fiber optics we need are for internal communication but that could open a pipeline for other companies to tie into.”

Webster said that in various communities it could be possible to drop a fiber optics connection that companies such as Frontier, Shantel or Suddenlink could use to offer services where otherwise impossible.

Currently the feasibility study that will be presented later this month in the capital will focus on Mingo and Logan counties. AEP in Virginia has also been working on a similar project. It is farther along in the process and is at the point of conducting a pilot project in one county there.

The commission thought both projects would be beneficial to Mingo County and gave Carrico, Webster and their respective companies the green light to proceed on the projects.

In other business, the commission:

• Gave one-time $1,000 allotments to the Delbarton, Gilbert and Wharncliffe Volunteer Fire Departments;

• Changed the polling place in Precinct 23 from the Nolan Freewill Baptist Church to SPORTS Stop at Victory Lane;

• Donated an out-of-service cruiser from the Mingo County Sheriff’s Office to the Mingo Central High School law enforcement program;

• Provided $1,000 of financial assistance to the Gilbert CVB for 2019 National TrailFest; and

• Approved a resolution to recognize 911 telecommunicators as first responders.

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