Polk County to run conduit for fiber optic in Green Creek

Published 11:38 am Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One of the first items of business for Polk County&39;s new board of commissioners Monday night was to agree to run conduit for Pangaea&39;s fiber optic lines in a water line trench in Green Creek.

Newly sworn in commissioners Cindy Walker, Ren´e McDermott and Ray Gasperson, all Democrats, joined sitting commissioners Tommy Melton and Warren Watson, also Democrats, for the new board&39;s first meeting. After making appointments to boards, commissioners decided to take $40,000 out of fund balance to run conduit during the water line construction between Sandy Plains crossroads and the Green Creek Fire Department.

Ron Walters, Pangaea executive director, gave commissioners an update on Pangaea&squo;s progress over the past year and during his presentation, Polk County Information Technology Director Marche Pittman requested that the county run conduit during water line construction that will begin at the end of next week.

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Commissioners were reluctant to make the decision Monday night because they did not have concrete numbers in front of them, but the timing was critical because construction is set to begin next week. Commissioners decided to approve the funding because it would save the county approximately $26,000 to run the conduit now instead of after the trench is closed. Once conduit has been laid in the ground, fiber optic can easily go in later.

Pittman said the fiber optic services would connect all fire departments in the county with the exception of Saluda. Pittman said the county&squo;s recently approved communications upgrade project will save money in the long run with the Pangaea fiber optic capabilities.

Commissioners also asked Pangaea officials to begin discussions with the towns of Saluda and Tryon to run conduit in a water line trench scheduled to be constructed from Tryon to Saluda in the near future. If that is accomplished, all fire departments will have fiber optic capabilities.

Walker asked about the economic development benefits of having high speed Internet capabilities in the area. Both Walters and Polk County Economic Development Director Kipp McIntyre said that high speed capability is very important in drawing commercial businesses. Walters said that in the past developments asked about utility connections such as power, cable, water and sewer, but today the question is about the availability of a high speed Internet connection.

Pangaea, a non-profit organization, now has 120 miles of fiber running in Polk and Rutherford counties targeting government, rural health care, educational facilities and commercial buildings. Pangaea has an all volunteer board and has generated $2.5M in grant funding over the last three years, Walters reported.