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Commission holds public hearing

The Chambers County Commission called a public hearing and special called meeting on Monday to hear comments from the citizens of the Fredonia area of Chambers County in regards to the application of a grant application that will bring broadband service to the area.

The commission voted unanimously to apply for a grant through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) for a community development block grant under the CDBG-CV program in the amount of approximately $448,000.

Donnie Smith who has spearheaded the project along with CCDA Director of Commercial & Community Development told the commission and those in attendance that the areas that will fall under the grant would include portions of CR 263, CR 222, CR 296, CR 218, CR 179 and CR 221 in what is commonly referred to as Fredonia.

If the grant is approved, 114 households will be afforded the opportunity to have broadband services in their homes. “We count 114 households in that area,” Smith said. “Quite a few on the low to moderate income.”

County Attorney Skip McCoy said the commission will partner with TEC on this project and with the grant amount the commission hopes to secure, the county commission will not have to use any of their own funds. “The telephone company will be putting up about $300,000 of their own money in regards to this,” McCoy said.

Retired Air Force Captain Gary Perry said this is something everyone in the community needs, especially the children that are relying on remote learning. “I got used to having the ability to communicate with people, and to find out how people are doing, what their life is like, and that has been a struggle here,” Perry said.

Fredonia resident and teacher in Muscogee County sixth grade teacher Karen Kelley said her and her husband who is also an educator would have to leave the house so their children could use the limited internet they did have. “It has been an extreme aggravation,” Kelly said. “Even Though we have face to face kids this year, everything my kids turn in is electronic and I can’t take a stack of papers home to grade, I have to be able to access what they turned in and I can’t do that from home.”

The question of whether there was anyone in attendance that opposed the grant application by McCoy was met with a resounding no.

Smith also gave the Fredonia community some hopeful news on the cellular coverage front by saying there have been inquiries by Verizon to locate a tower in the Fredonia community.

As the hearing came to a close, McCoy reminded those in attendance that this was just the beginning phase. “Understand this is an application we have to get it approved we’re gonna work diligently to get it approved and then once we get it approved it’s gonna take some time in order to come to fruition so it’s not something will happen overnight this is the first step we have to take in order to make this reality,” McCoy said.

CCDA Director of Commercial and Community Development, Chris Busby pointed out that with this ADECA grant and the broadband grant that have been made available, TEC will have spent and committed $657,829.