During Monday’s Marshall County Commissioner meeting representatives from Surf Broadband and Marshall County Fiber presented their plans for the $1 million of ARP Funds the commissioners had pledged to expand fiber into the rural areas of the county.
Gene Cruise, the CEO of Surf Broadband said, “I think this is a unique time in history where the federal government, state government, and local governments are all working to try and get America connected. We are really lucky to have a partnership where we are working together rather than trying to beat each other up. We are trying to make sure that as many residents as possible in Marshall County get served.” He told the commissioners since January Surf had made an $11 million investment in Marshall County providing fiber to homes. There will be close to 14,000 homes that will have fiber past them by the end of the year.
Surf has passed about 3,800 homes in Plymouth, 4,200 homes in Bremen, a small project in Tippecanoe, and the entire town of Bourbon.
The additional funds requested will do a project northeast of Plymouth between LaPaz and Bremen where residents are underserved. The desire is to connect Plymouth to Bremen and ultimately to South Bend. This project would allow a path from LaPaz to Lake of the Woods and then Surf would pay for the connection from Lake of the Woods to Bremen and that would take care of the northeastern part of the county.
Cruise said the half-million dollars they are asking for will provide broadband to 150 homes between LaPaz and Lake of the Woods. He said Surf will match the $500,000 ARP funds with a $1.5 million project building all around Lake of the Woods to Bremen and through the town of LaPaz.
Joe McCarter co-president of RCF said to date they have invested $9.6 million in Marshall County with fiber. Projects have been around Bourbon, and around Argos, and they will be spending approximately $8.8 million to finish the REMC lakes area, Culver rural, and Knox.
McCarter said they have received grants totaling $2.8 million out of the $18.5 million spend. He specified two projects they plan to use the ARP funds. The first project is to transport fiber from the existing Marshall County REMC Smart Grid to the Culver Hut at Cardinal and W. Mill Streets. This is approximately 5.15 miles of buried fiber and will support the fiber build-out of the Town of Culver as well as the preparation for the Marshall County Fiber build-out of the Culver rural. This project will eventually provide fiber to nearly 2,100 residents and is estimated at $100,000.
The second project of $400,000 is the lakes region and would bring fiber to residents living at Kreigbaum Lake, Cook Lake, Holm Lake, Myers Lake, and Lawrence Lake. This build is approximately 6.3 miles of buried fiber and 4.2 miles of aerial fiber and would reach 460 customers.
Both projects are projected for completion yet this year.
Commissioner Kevin Overmyer asked Councilman Heath Thornton what the County Council did on the appropriation request last week and he said they only approved the $1 million for the Highway Equipment and $100,000 for administration professional services. He said the $1 million
Commissioner Stan Klotz said before a motion, “I totally support getting internet or fiber to the county as early as possible, but we’ve got everybody wanting money. Frankly, my first concern is the roads. I think until we get a dollar amount to know where we are going to prioritize. I think this is something of value that needs to be looked at but I’m not sure I’m there today where I can do that. My fear is we are going out with good intentions, spending a lot of money and coming up at the end and not having enough to take care of the roads.”
Commissioner Overmyer said we asked the council to appropriate the $ 2 million for the highway department and they voted it down last week.
Commissioner Mike Burroughs made a motion to ask the council to appropriate the $1 million for fiber, and $500,000 for both Surf Broadband and Marshall County Fiber at their July meeting and Commission Overmyer seconded the motion. The final vote was 2 to 1 with Commissioner Klotz voting no stipulating that until the decision on roads I made he couldn’t vote in favor.