Anyone closely following the progress of the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) broadband grant application submitted by a consortium of Pendleton County Schools and the Pendleton County Library might find themselves quietly singing the lyrics to Tomorrow from the play Little Orphan Annie. Indeed, “It’s always a day away…” has seemed to be its recent theme. The decision – originally projected to have come between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2021 – has several times seemed imminent, “due any day now.”
But that’s not to say that there hasn’t been some change in condition, including an announcement last week that the deadline for completing construction of any approved projects, has now been extended to June 30, 2023, doubtless in recognition of the delays in making the awards, which would have left contractors scrambling furiously to complete their work by the original deadline of June 30.
- P. Mowery, Pendleton Schools business manager, confirmed the deadline extension to the Times on Monday and reported being told in his most recent conversation with ECF officials that the application is still in the review phase, this time from the additional questions to which the answers had been submitted three weeks ago.
Laura Brown, Pendleton County Economic Development Authority executive director, reported that the other grant applications, made by the Pendleton County broadband committee, acting on behalf of the county commissioners, were also in the “hurry up and wait” condition, but added, “Just last week, our ISP, Lingo Networks, together with the EDA and Pendleton County Commission, answered additional questions from the WV Development Office in regards to our broadband applications. From our understanding, before the end of the West Virginia legislative session – which ends March 12 – additional awards will be announced for the LEAD applications. We are very hopeful for Pendleton County.”
Brown recapped that, as a whole, there are now $6.3 million of grant applications pending in the review stage and none of them have yet been rejected. She said that the broadband council is continuing to work with Thrasher Engineering as they begin a feasibility study for the county. She explained that the feasibility study is very important to identify and bring “shovel ready” projects to life for future broadband opportunities.