Tuesday, February 25, 2020

County approves grant matching for fiber optic expansion opportunity

Additional potential for future grant with GVH

By Katherine Nettles

There could be significant improvements to internet connectivity across the county in the near future, and several entities, from hospitals to government to a utility company, are willing to pitch in for matching funds in a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant application through Region 10.

Gunnison County commissioners approved an expenditure of $20,000 on November 5 to match funds from both Crested Butte (also $20,000) and Mt. Crested Butte ($5,000) and those of potential grants in order to run fiber optic lines from Gunnison to Mt. Crested Butte. There is money left in a previous DOLA grant awarded to the county by Region 10 as well that would likely cover the engineering for the project, according to county manager Matthew Birnie.

The commissioners discussed that this would potentially leverage another, healthcare-related grant, possibly with Gunnison Valley Health (GVH), which has a hospital in Gunnison and a clinic in Mt. Crested Butte.

The combination of the two grants, if awarded, could help drive down the cost of the total build, which is estimated at $2.3 million.

Birnie said chances looked good for GVH to get the grant. Gunnison County Electric Association is backing it with a big financial commitment of $1.6 million that DOLA would like to see.

“So to me, $20,000 is a pretty good investment,” said Birnie.

The county installed fiber in 2007 between Crested Butte and the Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation building, and Birnie said there would be a big technical challenge getting it from there up to Town Hall. GVH wants to be able to get fiber up to their clinic in Mt. Crested Butte.

The commissioners unanimously approved the expenditure for the matching opportunity.

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