Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
The expansion of rural broadband got a shot in the arm from the Henry County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Supervisors approved disbursements of $1.4 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds divided evenly between the Wayland-based Farmers & Merchants Mutual Telephone Company and the Danville Mutual Telephone Company.
“It’s a big win for us and a big win for the county,” said Tim Fencl, CEO and general manager of Danville Mutual Telephone Company.
Supervisor Greg Moeller explained that, according to the guidelines from the U.S. Department of Treasury regarding the use of funds, the money must be used to pay for projects that provide internet speeds capable of at least 100 megabits per second.
Fencl said that Danville Mutual Telephone Company has applied for state funds to help fund a large project that includes both Henry and Des Moines counties.
“We have applied for funding from the state of Iowa as well for an area that is inclusive of Lowell, up X23 (New London Road) just short of the overpass on Highway 34 and from the north side of New London, two or three miles north, then east four or five miles. That’s what we applied for in Henry and Des Moines (counties).”
Regardless if the state money is approved, Fencl said that a portion of the project would still be done.
“If we are unsuccessful in the Henry/Des Moines project, we are still going to build something,” he said. “My hope is that we get everything from New London south to Lowell done anyway. That’s a hundred something homes that would be included.”
Farmers & Merchants Mutual Telephone Company Chief Operations Officer Ray Fear said that the $700,000 from Henry County is expected to go toward a project in the Trenton and Mt. Union areas.
“We’re going to do east of (Highway) 218,” Fear said. “It will be more in the Mt. Union area, the Trenton area as well, south toward Rome and Salem.”
Supply chain issues will have a major effect on when the projects can be done.
“It’s the supply chain that we’re going to run into,” Fencl said. “Depending on what products we have on hand, we may not get a lot done this fall at all if anything.”
Fear said, “Depending on where we can get supplies from, we’d like to start some of it this fall if we can get somebody to do it.”
Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved $500,000 in disbursements split evenly between the New London Community Childcare Center and the Mt. Pleasant Community Childcare Center.
With Tuesday’s broadband disbursements, Henry County has allocated all of the ARP funds it received.
The county will receive another $1.9 million in ARP funds next year.