The county commissioners formally adopted a letter in support of greater broadband access throughout Lebanon County at its latest meeting on Thursday, Aug. 3. 

The commissioners unanimously accepted a letter dated Aug. 3 to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development backing an application proposal submitted by Upward Broadband, Paradise, to the state. The Lancaster-based company is poised to perform the necessary work to improve the county’s access to broadband services. 

The letter stated the commissioners “have full confidence that Upward Broadband will be able to build a network in our county that will help us obtain universal broadband for our residents and businesses.” 

The letter also notes the successful track record of the company. 

“We have researched this organization and found they have a record of reaching unserved areas that have traditionally been difficult to reach. Their reviews show that they deliver a quality product and are focused on customer satisfaction.”

There are 17 municipalities in the Lebanon Valley slated to receive improved service. They are Lebanon City; Jonestown, Mt. Gretna, Palmyra, and Richland boroughs; and East Hanover, Heidelberg, Jackson, Millcreek, North Annville, North Cornwall, South Annville, South Lebanon, South Londonderry, Union, West Cornwall, and West Lebanon townships.

The letter stated that the project proposes the following:

  • According to a study conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 22 percent of households in Lebanon County are considered unserved, and 47 percent are underserved.
  • Upward Broadband will fit up equipment on multiple towers.
  • This aligns with our stated goal of providing universal coverage to the residents and businesses of our community.

The commissioners expressed their support as an economic development project and as part of its comprehensive plan to “promote the expansion of broadband services into new and existing communities.” (The county launched last week a review of its plan, which was last implemented in 2007.) 

Read More: Lebanon County launches process to craft new 10-year comprehensive plan

“Expanding access to quality and reliable high-speed broadband will not only support economic development and enhance public safety to our residents and businesses, but it also promotes the commonwealth’s goal to obtain universal broadband for the entire population of Pennsylvania. As such, we are committed to help support this project,” the letter concluded.

After the meeting, Jamie Wolgemuth, county administrator, told LebTown that project costs will be paid by the commonwealth through existing American Rescue Plan Act funding, meaning the work will be performed without the use of county taxpayer dollars.

In other county business, the commissioners agreed to award the low bid for sealing and line painting of municipal parking lots to Square One Paving, York. In accepting the bid of $38,000, it was noted the company was the low bidder of the two received for this project. TLS Paving Maintenance, Jonestown, was the other bidder whose proposal was just under $47,000. County Purchasing Agent Danielle Emerick told the commissioners that work will commence in the near future, prior to cold weather arriving, to avoid any freezing and refreezing issues.

The county also moved to change from a checking to a debit card system to transfer monies held on behalf of Lebanon County Correctional Facility inmates who are either being released or transferred to another facility. 

LCCF Warden Tina Lutz said there had been incidents of fraud because the checks contained routing and account numbers, and the implementation of a debit card system would eliminate that information being disseminated to the public. 

Lutz told the commissioners that NUMI Financial, the company that will issue the debit cards, will not charge the cardholder any fees for the first 30 days. Lutz added that once the card is provided to the client, any concerns that may arise are between the cardholder and the financial institution.

Warden Lutz was asked if this program was applicable to work release inmates. While that is an option, it is one that the county may look to pursue in the future.  

At the request of its bank, LCCF decided to eliminate the use of checks for monies that are distributed from the inmate’s in-prison account while they are housed at the county correctional facility. Lutz noted inmates are permitted to receive a small amount of money each week while in the county’s prison system.

In other county business, the commissioners voted to: 

  • Approve two hotel tax grant application requests. The commissioners voted to provide $7,500 to Penn State Extension for its annual Crops Conference on Feb. 6, 2024, at the Lebanon Valley Exposition Center and Fair Grounds, and $6,835 for Lancaster Kennel Club’s annual Agility Trials at In the Net sports complex in Campbelltown from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1.
  • Have Met-Ed replace 12 street lights at Monument Park that contain sodium-based lights with 150 Watt HPS/250 Watt Mercury LED replacements. Wolgemuth told the commissioners this will greatly improve lighting in and around the park since there will be greater illumination with the replacement LEDs. The electric company will replace street lights that are at least 20 years old for free. The only potential cost to the county would be for any equipment used to support or provide energy to the fixtures that need to be replaced.
  • Grant a real estate tax exemption to one fully disabled veteran.
  • Approve the minutes of their July 20 meeting and recognize that a workshop session was held on July 26.
  • Accept the treasurer’s report and approve various personnel transactions.
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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...