Among the items on the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors’ agenda for its monthly meeting at 2 p.m. next Monday (Aug. 3) are a discussion of a possible next step in the county’s quest for broadband internet coverage, and the creation of a finance committee to assess the county’s annual budget starting next year.
County Administrator John McCarthy says he will ask the supervisors for authorization to pursue a possible grant through the governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund, a possibility he says was specifically mentioned by Virginia Agriculture Secretary Todd Haymore, who was among the speakers at a well-attended Community Broadband Forum sponsored in Rappahannock July 8 by the Greater Piedmont Area Association of Realtors.
“He said he’d hoped to see some broadband-related grant proposals in the last round of applications,” McCarthy said, “but had not. So I took that as encouragement to come up with something.”
McCarthy said he’s spoken to his counterpart in Fauquier County, Paul McCulla, about a possible collaborative effort to seek AFID funds to improve broadband in a the northeastern part of Rappahannock and the Marshall district of Fauquier, where the terrain is similar and which share a concentration of wineries and vineyards. Broadband would help attract and bring back retail customers of wineries, which the state considers among the fastest growing components of the Virginia agriculture sector, McCarthy said.
Rappahannock, Culpeper and Fauquier counties this summer received a $20,000 AFID planning grant to study the need for a waste-wood processing plant in Amissville.
“If this works well,” McCarthy said, suggesting that a grant could pay for incentives to wireless broadband providers like Rappahannock-based Piedmont Broadband and Fauquier-based Blaze, “there could be similar cooperative efforts with Culpeper in the southern part of the county, and Madison in the southwest.”
The supervisors will also consider, and likely act on, a proposal to create a finance committee which would likely include at least two supervisors, county treasurer Deborah Knick, McCarthy or his deputy Debbie Keyser, and possibly one or two other county staff members. The committee would take “a closer look” at the county’s budgeting and finance process, starting with the fiscal-year 2017 budget that goes into effect next July.