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Reno County Commissioners Lend Support for Application to Expand Rural Internet

By Lucky Kidd, Ad Astra Radio


RENO COUNTY – Reno County Commissioners Tuesday gave their support to an application being prepared by IdeaTek for expansion of fiber internet services to at least 600 homes in rural Reno County.

IdeaTek general counsel and director of broadband advocacy Ethan Kaplan said competition for the $83.5 million in available funds will be key and asked for local support. IdeaTek will be seeking $3.5 million for projects in Reno County, to which the company will add around another $600 thousand.

The suggestion presented to Commissioners is that matching funds be provided on a per-premises basis. The Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce and Hutchinson Community Foundation are also providing support for this application.

Commissioner Daniel Friesen abstained from this discussion.

Wildfire Mitigation

The Commission discussed at length submission of a grant application to the Kansas Division of Emergency Management for wildfire mitigation funding, that became available after the Cottonwood Complex in March.

The grant is for just over $786 thousand with a 25 percent local cost share. Funding from the grant can be used for land clearing around the most populated and high-risk areas of Reno County.

There are still several questions to be answered about the application, among them earlier suggestions from Commissioner Ron Hirst that property owners put up the cost share funds and not the county. Commissioners agreed to put together their suggestions in writing and integrate them into the final application packet, which is expected to come back to them in September.

Health Insurance Premiums

Health insurance rates for county employees for the new premium year will remain unchanged from the current year.

Human Resources Director Helen Foster told Commissioners she did not have a dollar figure for stop loss requirements for the county’s self-funded plan, but the county should be able to handle it.

Commissioner Ron Sellers said there will have to be an increase in employee contributions at some point but did join his fellow commissioners in continuation of current rates