County hires broadband consultant

The April 19 Board of Josephine County Commissioners’ weekly business session had “lots of positive stuff,” Board Chair Herman Baertschiger said after bringing the meeting to order.
The board’s usual locale of the Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass hosted the meeting.
One of those positive things was supposed to be the approval of a lease agreement with Art and Science Kids for county property at 520 E. River St. in Cave Junction. However, Baertschiger said the matter had to be stricken from the agenda because “the documents just aren’t ready.”
Progress was made in the effort to expand broadband access in the county when Sequoia Consulting was hired as a broadband consultant.
JoCo I.T. Director John McCafferty said the county is using $80,000 of its remaining American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund one year of consulting work.

This will “get us prepared for the upcoming federal money that’s going to be flowing through the state of Oregon for citizens to get broadband to their homes in rural areas,” according to McCafferty.

“There are federal plans already in Josephine County but they’re not getting to the homes and businesses that are most in need of help to get internet,” explained the I.T. director. “There is inadequate wireless and direct point-to-point sometimes in these areas but there is not a robust fiber or speeds from cellular outlets that can actually run a business or give education opportunities for the children in the home or for people to work.”

Commissioner John West said of the consulting agreement, “This is really a great step forward heading in the right direction.” West added that he appreciates all of McCafferty’s hard work.

Under the board’s consent calendar, bylaws were adopted for the JoCo Rural Planning Commission, the annual renewal of the County Assessment Function Funding Assessment Grant, also known as CAFFA, was undertaken, and Amanda Metzler was appointed to a four-year term on the Rural Planning Commission.

Two Grants Pass properties were annexed into the Josephine Community Library District: a five-acre property on N. Pinnon Rd and a 20-acre property on Granite Hill Rd.

Baertschiger commented on the annexations, “This is a self-imposed tax and I think that’s the way it should be.”

Any landowner in Josephine County that does not live within the physical boundary of the library district can petition the county to be annexed into it in order to pay taxes in support of the library and receive an included library membership.

Michelle Rosenberger, associate director of the JoCo Community Library District, expressed her appreciation toward the property owners volunteering to join the taxing district.