Public Hearing Held on Broadband Planning Grant

The Starke County Commissioners held a public hearing Monday night on a Broadband Readiness Planning Grant.

Jessica Craig from the Starke County Chamber of Commerce wrote a successful application to get the grant for Starke County.

Edwin Buswell from the Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission explained that the county’s proposed grant application is to study broadband opportunities for the county.

“We’re working on some of the paperwork,” said Buswell. “The grant can be a maximum of $50,000. This is a pilot program. The state only awarded five in the state. We’re still learning exactly how this is going to work so we don’t have a whole lot of answers on all of that yet.”

Marshall County was also among five rural Indiana communities awarded the Broadband Readiness Planning Grant.

The grant money comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was distributed by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

Craig mentioned that the governor’s office will have additional grants going out to actually implement programs after the pilot program is done and Starke County will have preferential treatment after being a part of the initial process.

She added that this would be a big game changer for the county.

“North Judson-San Pierre Schools is one of the only schools that’s kind of held out on going to a lot more eLearning days with a lot of gaps in internet over there,” stated Craig. “Even the area where I live there’s a waiting list.”

Assessments will be conducted in this pilot program to target areas where broadband access is lacking. Other grants to implement broadband service will follow.

A $5,000 match is required. It was suggested to request the matching funds to be split between the Starke County Economic Development Foundation and the Starke County Community Foundation, although that hasn’t been determined.

The Starke County Commissioners voted unanimously to support all documents need to move forward with this planning grant and pilot program.