Mayor Robbie Skinner and councilwoman Pam Bucklew at Buckhannon City Council's Feb. 17 meeting at the Public Safety Complex. / Photo by Katie Kuba

City to support Frontier’s bid for major broadband grant funds

BUCKHANNON – Members of Buckhannon City Council voted to provide a letter of support to Frontier WV Communications for a grant from the Major Broadband Project Strategies Program which will be used to expand broadband to Buckhannon and surrounding communities.

The vote to approve came during Thursday’s city council regular meeting held at the Public Safety Complex.

Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner asked finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins to speak about the request. Jenkins said the request was much like a recent request from Micrologic.

“They have to get support from local governments,” Jenkins said to which Skinner asked if Buckhannon City Council was in receipt of Frontier’s grant proposal. “I do not [have a copy].”

Tammy Reger, executive director of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce, told council the chamber provided a letter of support for Micrologic. She said Micrologic was required to submit the addresses of the locations – up to 500 – which would be covered by the grant.

“I am just wondering if the city knows how many of the addresses are in Buckhannon/Upshur County because it says, ‘surrounding communities,’ Reger asked.

“That is a good point,” Skinner answered. “I am just wondering because Micrologic is a hometown company who has made major investments in this community both in Buckhannon and the countryside around Buckhannon. I am just asking, and maybe Mr. O’Neill (Tom O’Neill, city attorney) can weigh in on this. Is there any potential conflict of interest or anything? Because we supported the Micrologic grant application with a letter of support campaign, is this something we should do as well or does it counter what we did for Micrologic?”

O’Neill, who attended the meeting online, told council there is nothing in the council’s support for Micrologic’s grant application that would restrict the City of Buckhannon from offering similar support to other applicants.

“The council is not bound to only support one application and in fact, I might suggest if the city were to decline to support the Frontier application, it would need some sort of basis otherwise we might be open to an accusation that the council is acting in an arbitrary manner,” O’Neill said. “Ms. Reger’s point is well-taken to being able to confirm the factual statements that are made in the letter. If the city has not been provided with the information necessary to be able to do that, you can do one of two things – you can decline to sign the letter or you can modify the letter to take out any reference to facts that have not been established to the city’s satisfaction. But there is nothing about Micrologic’s letter of support that would prohibit the city from doing something similar for Frontier.”

O’Neill said the city does not have to choose one applicant to get behind.

“Both applicants intend to serve the city and its surrounding areas,” O’Neill said. “You are not constrained. You can certainly vote to support Frontier’s application in the same manner that the council supported Micrologic’s.”

City recorder Randy Sanders said the city and surrounding areas currently lack high-speed internet.

“We all know that,” Sanders said. “I think it is great that Micrologic and I think, Suddenlink are taking the initiative and I think it is great Frontier is taking the initiative. We are one community, and I personally feel we should support this as well because we are trying to get this kind of access in every home in Upshur County.”

Skinner said council should offer support to all the entities because their services are not available to everyone due to having to be ‘in the line of sight of a tower,’ adding that not all neighborhoods are in those lines of sight.

“The more opportunities we have, it creates competition and makes the world a better place,” Skinner said. “However, the council wants to proceed is fine with me.”

Sanders made a motion to provide a letter of support to Frontier and the motion received a second by Pamela Bucklew. All members present in person and online voted to approve and include Sanders, CJ Rylands, Jack Reger and Bucklew. Councilwoman Shelia Lewis-Sines abstained from the vote because of a conflict of interest.

The next regular meeting of the Buckhannon City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 3, 2022.

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