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Broadband is the medicine TCRH needs

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By April Wright, Reporter

Twin County Regional Hospital is expected to be a primary user of the regional broadband utility being planned by the Wired Road Authority.

However, its need for fiber optic services is far ahead of construction plans and beyond the authority’s fiscal capabilities.

“They have a great need for broadband just for their medical and telemedicine purposes,” Keith Barker, assistant city manager and member of the authority, told Galax City Council in requesting a $260,000 loan to place a fiber optic connection.

It would be between the co-location in downtown Galax and the Twin County Regional Hospital and the Vaughan Furniture office building, where the hospital leases office space.

The Wired Road Authority oversees building infrastructure, and local Internet service providers sell the service.

The Internet service provider would pay the Wired Road Authority a percentage of what it makes in order to use equipment that is installed.

Barker said the authority considered grants from Department of Housing and Community Development and the Appalachian Regional Commission, but it could take a year or more to receive the grant and get contracted for construction.

Yet the need is much sooner, and anything beyond six months is really pushing it, he said.

City council recently approved the request by the hospital and the Wired Road Authority as an emergency procurement project to fund the $260,000 fiber extension project now and turn it over to the authority when funding is secured.

The money will not be appropriated until later from cash reserves. The Wired Road Authority would begin repaying the city in its fourth operating year, Barker said.

Once fiber is deployed to the hospital and along Glendale Road, Wired Road service providers will be able to extend a variety of services to those offices, businesses and residents.

Services would include high-speed Internet connections, voice, data backup and virtual services. Video and other services will be made available over time.

A $325,000 grant allocated through the Appalachian Regional Commission would help connect that fiber to the industrial park.

In other recent action, city council:

• approved a resolution for the Twin County Airport Commission to have members appointed by each of its localities of Grayson County, Carroll County and City of Galax.

• heard from Chris Shackelford, director of Chestnut Creek School of the Arts, who has been approached by new owners of 110 E. Oldtown St., Galax, about leasing space in the building for a pottery studio and teaching facility for the school.

Owners Richard and Judy Weigand offered a 1,500 square-foot street level space, which would be used by Chestnut Creek School of the Arts as a co-op for potters to hold classes and showcase work in exchange for an initial year-long lease.

Without much advertisement, 10 individuals are already interested in renting space for their use at the pottery studio.

Shackelford said a pottery studio will not be designated as a part of the main building once it is renovated.

“This is a unique opportunity to create a downtown pottery studio in partnership with private building owners,” said Shackelford. “This also feeds into the downtown revitalization because not only will people be able to show and sell their work, visitors will be able to see it being made as they walk by.

“Timing of this opportunity is beneficial because it allows us to build momentum with curriculum and offer classes that have been proven successful.”

Council will allow the lease of the pottery studio.

• designated to place the Twin County Veterans Memorial, designed by Todd Price of Elk Creek, between the Galax Public Library and the library’s Vaughan building. The nearly $300,000 project has been led by veterans Sharon and Frank Plichta.

The Plichtas, veterans groups and many volunteers are raising funds in hopes of having the memorial complete within the next two years.

• named Galax High School students Scott Alouf and Jill Bartlett to the Recreation Advisory Board. Each will have one year terms.

• recognized Alex Pyles, who recently competed on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” show. She demonstrated her talent in martial arts and beat out 200,000 people to make it to the semi-final round. Council gave her a resolution.

• introduced new Galax police officer Daren Dixon. Police Chief Rick Clark noted that it has been two years since an officer has been hired. Dixon is a former deputy of the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office. Dixon was administered his oath of office by Mayor C.M. Mitchell.