The Mingo County Commission addressed two agenda items dealing with the need for increased internet services throughout the county during its meeting Tuesday morning.
Cheryl Taylor represented the Dingess community and spoke of the problems her family, friends and neighbors are facing with sparse internet coverage and unreliable service.
“Internet service has become an essential part of life and the quality of internet service in our area is so poor that it does not meet our needs,” she told the commission. “We have people with businesses who cannot work because the internet is so bad. Our students are at a disadvantage to study and to do research.”
The community of more than 2,000 people is serviced by cable, telephone and internet provider Frontier Communications. Cheryl Taylor asked the commission to allow Suddenlink Communications, a competing company, to come into the area in hopes of improving service.
Commission President Diann Hannah sympathized with her and residents
of the Dingess community, however, she said the county did not have control over internet signal.
“When you live in an area with our terrain, service is always a problem,” Hannah said. “It is a situation where our residents are given no choice but to fail.”
Commissioner Thomas Taylor said that service issues plague the entire county.
“We (his personal business) operate out of Matewan and it is a 50-50 shot any day as to whether we have internet,” he said.
Cheryl Taylor was told the county did not have the authority to give the nod to Suddenlink. Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith told her that there was an upcoming meeting between its representative and the commission and the situation would be discussed.
“The only authority the commission has with these companies is only the cable television franchise,” Smith said. “All other utilities including power and internet are regulated through the Public Service Commission.”
Smith suggested that she contact the PSC in Charleston to see if it would approve another provider in the Dingess community.
Also, Lisa Wells, a representative of the Region Two Planning and Development Office, asked the commission to award the bid for a broadband needs study in the Gilbert area.
The study will be funded by a federal community development block grant. While Wells said the need for increased broadband internet services in Gilbert and all across Mingo County and southern West Virginia is widely understood, the funding agency requires the study to be conducted prior to any other expansion efforts. The funding source also stipulated the section of the county in which the grant could be used.
Wells said only two companies submitted bids for the project and recommended that the bidding award go to Design 9. The bid came in $42,000 less than its competitor.
Wells and county grant writer Leigh Ann Ray stipulated that the lower cost was not the determining factor.
“This is one of the very few instances in which we were not required to go with the lowest bidder,” Ray said. “The bids were so close in every way that we sent an additional set of questions to each of the bidders to determine which would be the better company to use.”
The critical factor in making the decision came to the amount of time each would need to complete the study, both Ray and Wells said. Design 9 had previously researched the area for another project and already has most of the data it needs. That was also one of the reason that company’s bid was much lower as well, they said.
In other business, the commission also:
• Discussed storage options for physical record files with Circuit Court Clerk Lonnie Hannah in preparation of a plan to sell the old Williamson High School complex later this month. Hannah’s office currently uses two large rooms in the complex to house 189 filing cabinets and 75 boxes filled with court records;
• Recognized Oct. 7-13 as National 4-H Week; and
• Signed a proclamation declaring October as Domestic Abuse Awareness Month and Oct. 18 as Purple Thursday.