Commissioners support grant application to help provide fiber optic service in rural areas

YORK – The York County Commissioners are in full support behind a grant application being made by a private company that wants to install fiber optics in the rural area near McCool, to provide high speed internet service.

The county board members met with Allison Fritsche and Aaron Wescoart from Glenwood Telecommunications this past week to talk about their proposed project if the grant comes through. Fritsche and Wescoart were there to ask the commissioners for a letter of support to include with their grant application. They said they also got a letter of support from District 24 State Senator Jana Hughes.

“Our focus, to provide high speed internet, is in rural parts of Nebraska that aren’t served or underserved,” Fritsche explained. “We are applying for this Round 3 grant and if we receive it, 53 residents in rural York County will be able to be served.”

She provided a map that shows the area they are talking about for the project (see accompanying map). The red dots, she said, are the residences that would be able to be served, if this project were to take place. The blue line at the bottom of the map indicates where their fiber optic infrastructure has already been installed, coming out of Fillmore County.

“These residences aren’t being served with high speed internet now,” Fritsche said. “We aren’t seeking any funds from the county, just your blessing and a recommendation for this application.”

She noted this would all be buried infrastructure and the company would take care of all the installation and the future maintenance, into the future. They would also come back to the county board to talk about installation requirements, right-of-way, etc.

“If we get the grant, the project will start in the spring of 2024,” Fritsche told the commissioners.

The company has been successful with securing these types of grants in the past – in Round 1, they worked with Fillmore County. In Round 2, they worked with Phelps County.

“Well, I can’t imagine that residents in that area wouldn’t like this,” Commissioner Chairman Randy Obermier said. “Have you talked with any of those folks yet?”

Fritsche said if the grant is secured, the company will have one-on-one conversations with the residents, regarding the availability of high speed internet now being available to them.

Commissioner Stan Boehr added, “With my past membership on the Mainstay Communications board, we’ve done a lot of work with Glenwood and they have an excellent reputation. The relationship was always very, very good.”

Fritsche said they are pursuing grants for these unserved areas – which are areas currently without access to fiber. Challenging companies have to prove they provide certain internet speeds at this time.

And she added that if this grant process is successful, as is the project in York County, they will come back next year to talk about Round 4, for more fiber infrastructure in rural York County.

“I think this is a great idea for us and for York County,” Obermier said. “I think we will also find more areas like this out in the rural parts of York County.”

“I don’t have any exposure to Glenwood, so I’m glad to hear someone on this board – Stan Boehr – has,” said Commissioner Daniel Grotz. “I think it’s awesome they want to do this and there is no reason to stand in the way of the grant process for a company who is willing to put in their own money. I think it’s awesome.”

“I say go for it,” Boehr added.

“It is a need that needs to be filled,” said Commissioner Woody Ziegler.

“Again, we worked with them for many years and we had a tremendous relationship,” Boehr said, regarding his past experience on the Mainstay Communications board.

A consensus was reached among the commissioners that they would like to promote the project through the grant process.


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