County supports broadband project

Allen County Commissioners pledged $1,000 to LaHarpe Communications' efforts to qualify for a $1 million Kansas Broadband Acceleration Grant.


Local News

March 6, 2024 - 2:19 PM

Harry Lee with LaHarpe Communications seeks a $1,000 buy-in from county commissioners for a broadband project that would go from Iola to Carlyle. Photo by Sarah Haney / Iola Register

Allen County Commissioners pledged $1,000 in yet another broadband project on Tuesday, this time with LaHarpe Communications.

“We’d like to lay fiber along the northeast corner of Iola, up to Carlyle, and then west on Texas Road,” Harry Lee of LaHarpe Communications told commissioners. 

Eventually, Neosho Falls would also gain access. “That would be our end point,” he said. “Our intermediate goal is to get fiber to one of the towers that we constructed a few years ago in the northeast corner of the county. We will reinforce what we can do with that tower.”

LaHarpe Communications requested the county’s buy-in in the hopes of qualifying for a $1 million Kansas Broadband Acceleration Grant. The commission is no stranger to this process. Recently, the commission agreed to give their support via a letter and a $1,000 pledge to the same broadband grant process with provider KwiKom Communications. LaHarpe Communications’ project is greater in cost than KwiKom’s, estimated at $3.9 million, as opposed to KwiKom’s $1.8 million project.

“This is the same grant, but a different project?” asked Commissioner Bruce Symes. Lee confirmed. “Can we get them both?” asked Symes. “Can both providers be awarded the grants?” Lee noted that the decision “is in the state’s hands,” adding that the grants are not mutually exclusive.

If awarded, the grant would be a 50-50 matching grant between LaHarpe Communications and the state. Any county contribution will offset LaHarpe Communication’s share of the project. “With us covering $2.9 million of the project, we’d be covering well above that 50/50 match,” Lee said. Symes reminded the commission it is on the hook for the $1,000 only if the grant is awarded. 

Initiated in 2020, the Kansas Broadband Acceleration Grant program aims to allocate $85 million over a decade to narrow the digital divide within the state. The program plays a crucial role in Kansas’ strategy to eliminate broadband gaps. It focuses on directing funds to regions that are unlikely to have access to broadband service without financial support from the state or federal government.

Commissioner David Lee abstained from voting on the measure. He is the son of Harry Lee and also works for the family business.

IN OTHER NEWS, Lisse Regehr, CEO of Thrive Allen County, presented an economic development annual report to the commission. She touched on some of the successes of Thrive, including community conversations, the creation of Lehigh Portland State Park, small business growth, and business retention and expansion.

Dimity Lowell, with the support of Robin Town and Joyce Adair, reminds the county commission of the Iola Senior Center’s upcoming 2nd Annual Fashion Show, slated for April 6. Photo by Sarah Haney / Iola Register

• Dimity Lowell, Robin Town, Joyce Adair, and Joe Hess sought permission on behalf of the Iola Senior Center to paint the building. The commission agreed that they’d consider supplying the paint if the senior center returns with a cost estimate. 

Lowell informed commissioners of the center’s upcoming 2nd Annual Fashion Show, slated to begin at 1:30 p.m., April 6 at the Cretiz Recital Hall in the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.  

The fashion show is a fundraiser for the senior center. Funds will be targeted to improve the center’s grounds, said Lowell.

The center has had a successful year, Lowell said. That success translates into bounteous gifts to others.

“We have resumed our donations back to the community,” Lowell said. “So far this year, we have donated $5,000 to nine entities.” 

The fashion show will include a silent auction.