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Paintearth County discusses involvement in Rural Connects

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County of Paintearth

Paintearth County council addressed its involvement in the Municipally Controlled Corporation (MCC) Rural Connects at its Nov. 28 meeting. Chief administrative officer (CAO) Michael Simpson gave council updates on the MCC, which is still in the early stages of development, and what the county can expect as things proceed.

Simpson explained to council that the MCC is nearing the completion of its shareholders’ agreement. The MCC will also include Red Deer County and The Village of Delburne as other founding members.

To become a shareholder on the MCC will require a community project to be built. Funds for the project will come from the county’s Municipal Broadband Reserve which is an earmarked $3.5 million at this time.

The advantage to the county becoming part of the MCC is that they would own and operate the infrastructure. However, they would not need to find customers, as internet providers would be the customers and they would be the ones responsible for increasing the customer base. It was also noted that Paintearth County’s involvement in the MCC would help them apply for possible future grants for improving rural internet access.

Administration has already received permission from the Village of Halkirk to install, own and operate broadband infrastructure under the county, and transfer it to Rural Connect at the appropriate time. The Halkirk project is suggested to be first with an approximate value of $437,183.

Halkirk’s population density was part of the reason it was chosen as the first project for the county. The agreement was made with Halkirk’s previous council but Simpson does not expect the new Halkirk council would want to opt out of the agreement.

Administration also addressed similar projects at Brownfield and the Crowfoot Crossing development. The two projects are sitting at an approximate cost of $223,475.00 each.

Simpson asked council to consider all three locations for the first project in the area, despite the last two possibly not qualifying for government grants for broadband in rural areas.

Simpson recommended to council that his office be authorized to sit on the Rural Connect board as the county’s representative, once it had been established for at least the first two years of Rural Connect’s operation.

Coun. Diane Elliot motioned to approve the County’s continuation towards the creation/joining the MCC Rural Connects.

CAO Simpson was tentatively appointed to sit on the Corporation’s shareholder board with a carried motion from coun. Maurice Wiart. This would happen once the shareholder agreements have been completed, and the three small projects were accepted by Rural Connects as equity.

Regarding the proposed projects intended for equity. Coun. Vockeroth’s motion to continue to make Halkirk part of the project was carried.

They then carried motions to include Brownfield as part of the project for $223,475.00 which was made by Coun. Sandy Shipton, and the addition of the Crowfoot Crossing development were approved with a motion from Coun. Elliot.

Coun. George Glazier also motioned to apply for the new intake of the Alberta Broadband Fund to connect all three urban communities (Halkirk, Castor, and Coronation) in the county with fibre optic.

Although those communities may apply to join the MCC later, the backbone of fibre optic that the county hopes to connect them to would also be joined to Halkirk.

The fibre optic line would also be beneficial to the county as it would provide internet access to several parcels of land in the area.