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Council approves county’s ‘future of economic growth’

Council approves county’s ‘future of economic growth’
Council approves county’s ‘future of economic growth’
Five-term Harrison County Councilman Ralph Sherman, seated in brown jacket, laughs at a comment with his successor, Sam Day, right, during a retirement reception Monday night for him and other outgoing councilmen Phil Smith and Steve Haggard. With them are, from left, Haggard (partially pictured), newly-elected Councilman Kyle Nix and Councilmen Gary Davis and Jim Heitkemper. Photo by Ross Schulz

The final meeting of the year for the Harrison County Council normally is short and sweet, with only a few transfers, a bevy of kind words and a send-off for the outgoing council members.
Monday night’s year-end meeting featured all of that and more.
The meeting wasn’t short, but, for those Harrison Countians looking for more reliable and affordable high-speed Internet, it sure was sweet.
The council showed unanimous support, with a letter, to enter into an agreement with Mainstream to provide high-speed Internet connectivity throughout Harrison County.
The financial commitment, which will have to be officially approved at a later time by the new council next year, is for $300,000 for the next five years ($5,000 per month for five years).
‘Many of us for years have been working on trying to entice broadband providers into our county,’ Commissioner George Ethridge said. ‘For several years, we weren’t able to do so. Here recently, things started to change.’
That change is because, at least in part, of the creation of Connect Harrison County Inc., a strategic initiative of the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County with the sole purpose of educating the community about the need for high-speed Internet and encouraging the development of the related infrastructure.
Connect Harrison County conducted a countywide survey last year asking for responses from businesses and residents about the need for high-speed Internet. It then took that information and issued a Request For Information. Mainstream (formerly BG Communications) responded with the proposal the county approved Monday night. In that request, it was reported that residents would be willing to pay $40 to $60 per month for high-speed Internet and businesses were OK with spending $60 to $100 a month for the service.
Lisa Long, secretary for Connect Harrison County, along with Ethridge, spoke to the council Monday night.
Harrison County Government will act as an ‘anchor account’ for Mainstream, and the company will build throughout the county from there.
‘You see why I’m really excited about this,’ Ethridge said.
He said the system will provide four times the service currently in use for county government.
‘It has built-in redundancy; if a cable gets cut, it still works,’ he said.
Ethridge said the frustrations of the current system will be done away with, as will the ‘brain drain’ where students leave the county to find better jobs.
‘When I moved here, I had the option of working from home but (high-speed Internet) wasn’t available,’ he said. ‘So I commuted to Lexington … that will be done away with.’
Ethridge also said students will be able to access homework at home when school is not in session due to snow days and video conferences will be a possibility.
‘I see this as a win-win,’ he said. ‘It’s a fantastic option for the county. It’s something we’ve been searching for a long time.’
Councilman Phil Smith made the motion to approve the letter of support, and Councilman Steve Haggard seconded.
‘The future of our economic growth depends on this,’ Councilman Richard Gerdon said. ‘We didn’t do anything for a long time because we didn’t have any choices. Now we do.’
The motion passed 7-0.
The meeting marked the final one for Councilmen Haggard, Smith and Ralph Sherman.
Councilman Gary Davis said he appreciated Haggard’s professionalism while completing the term of the late Gordon Pendleton.
‘You did a good job,’ he told Haggard, who had previously served on the council and as a county commissioner.
As for Smith, Davis said he’s worked closely with him for the last four years that he’s been on the council and appreciates more than anyone else how hard he’s worked.
‘I always take pride in working harder than anyone else on the council,’ Davis said. ‘I won’t say he works harder than I do, but he works more than I do.’
Davis said he and Smith, along with Pendleton (as members of the financial planning committee), were able to accomplish a lot.
Sherman was completing five terms ‘ 20 years of service ‘ on the council. Counting budget hearings conducted on a yearly basis, Sherman easily attended more than 500 county council meetings during his time in office.
‘I’ve only been on here six years,’ Gerdon said to Sherman. ‘I can’t imagine what you’ve seen come through.’
Davis said he’ll never forget when he first got into politics, in 1984, while attending a Farm Bureau dinner, Sherman stood up and said, ‘I’ve been paying taxes for a long time, and I want to spend some of it.’
Davis said he appreciated all the time Sherman has put in.
‘The only person I know to serve longer is Pete Schickel,’ Davis said.
Davis joked that he’s not sure how meetings will be adjourned in the future, since Sherman took care of that at the end of each meeting during his tenure.
And with that, Sherman put his final mark on the council.
‘I make a motion we adjourn.’