SHUTTERSTOCK ILLUSTRATION

SOCS to expand broadband capability in region

Cooper: Initial phase a $3.8 million investment in Pike County

By RICK GREENE

Southern Ohio Today


WAVERLY – Southern Ohio Communications Services Chief Executive Officer Gary Cooper announced the company is investing $3.8 million for the first phase of a project to provide high-speed internet services to parts of Pike, Adams and Scioto counties over the next three years.


SOCS is hoping to recoup the investment via an Ohio grant that reimburses companies for making such investments to grow the state’s broadband capabilities.


Cooper said the first phase will be in Pike County and will cover Waverly and large parts of southern and western Pike County. He asked commissioners for a letter of support as part of his effort to be reimbursed via the grant.


“This first phase is about 44 miles of fiber lines,” Cooper said. “By being awarded the grant, that gives us more money to build the next 44 miles.”


Commissioners were enthusiastic about the project, which they said would fulfill a need for area students who need internet access to stay competitive academically as more education is performed remotely. All commissioners agreed to the letter of support.


Patrick asked to review UHC proposal


Rick Patrick, owner of Scioto Valley Consulting Services, was asked by the Pike County commissioners to review the latest renewal offer from United Health Care for insurance for county employees.


Commissioners became dissatisfied with administrative aspects of county insurance following employee complaints and rising costs since the new arrangement began in October of 2019 with its new carrier – United Health Care - and the county’s broker, Assured Partners. They hired Patrick this summer to conduct a review.


Commissioner Jerry Miller said the new offer from UHC provides a credit for the December premium and about a 7 percent reduction in costs for next year. Miller added, however, that the administrative issues must be addressed.


“It looks like a good renewal offer, but I don’t know that the level of service will change,” Miller said. “I just don’t know that we’re completely comfortable with the arrangement that we have.”


Miller said the county has two issues to consider, if it is satisfied with UHC’s offer and whether Assured Partners should remain as the county’s broker.


CARES Act funding helps sheriff’s office stay under budget


Pike County Sheriff Jim Nelson reported that the sheriff’s office will come in under budget for 2020.


The sheriff’s department was aided by CARES Act funding to assist with costs related to salaries and benefits for employees in the department. The COVID-19 pandemic also resulted in fewer costs related to prisoners.


Those impacts freed up monies for vehicles, equipment and other needs. Even with the $325,000 spent for those needs, commissioners estimated the surplus to be in excess of $100,000.

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