On the heels of a McDuffie County Commission approval to install wireless connectivity between the new fire station and law enforcement center, the city/county Information Technology Department got another round of good news.
McDuffie, along with the other four counties in the Clarks Hill Partnership, received word that its application for a OneGeorgia Authority funded wireless grant was approved this week.
"January was a big month for us," said Thomson/McDuffie County Information Technology Director Kelly Evans. "I'm excited about it."
The Broadband Rural Initiative to Develop Georgia's Economy - or BRIDGE grant - will fund a $112,000 study in each of the counties to outline the best way to initiate wireless broadband capability that would stimulate the economy.
"The Economic Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech is the recommended consulting firm to come in and help you formulate the conceptual design to make sure that it does meet the economic development guidelines that they want to see out of OneGeorgia," Mrs. Evans said.
The study will compile information provided by people across the board in McDuffie, Columbia, Warren, Lincoln and Wilkes counties and outline common goals. That way, the counties can plan for exactly the right technology, Mrs. Evans said.
Of course, the study is just phase I. Once a comprehensive plan is compiled, Mrs. Evans said the counties wanting to proceed will apply for a phase II grant that would fund the installation of the plan's components.
Mrs. Evans added that McDuffie County's money set aside in sales tax dollars would not be enough to cover installation of wireless telemetry for the water and sewer systems. These grants could help the city and county install the components of that measuring system.
"We've got to find some way to make up the difference in the cost, and this is a really good way for us to do that and go ahead and get things paid for that we need for law enforcement and public safety," Mrs. Evans said.
OneGeorgia uses funding from the state's tobacco settlement to develop economically challenged areas in Georgia. According to the OneGeorgia website, about $5 million is available this year for BRIDGE grants across the state.
With a push toward regional cooperation, more than two counties working in conjunction to submit a grant have no limit to the funding the project could receive.