Port of Columbia Awarded $2 Million Broadband Infrastructure Grant

DAYTON, WA – Port of Columbia staff, along with private partner Columbia iConnect, made a presentation to the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) on Thursday, July 14th in Olympia and left with a $2 million award.

Acceptance of the $2 million grant is contingent upon the community providing $500,000 in matching funds. The Port applied for and received $20,000 from the Sherwood Trust, $15,000 from the Warren Community Fund, and $13,500 from the Dayton Columbia County Fund to use as matching funds, and has pledged $20,000 from their 2021 budget for the project as well.

“This is a rare opportunity to bring hard-earned federal tax dollars back to our community for the benefit of our citizens,” stated Jennie Dickinson, Port of Columbia executive director. “A relatively small local contribution by the Port and our community partners can benefit thousands of residents.”

Requests will be made to Columbia County and the City of Dayton for the remainder of the funds required.

The Port has been working with community partners, including the City of Dayton, Columbia County, and private sector internet service providers since 2019 to address inadequate and unreliable internet service in our community. Even before the pandemic, Port staff heard concerns from many businesses and community members about how limiting our current internet service was. COVID-19 only exacerbated the issue. It became clear that in order for the community to remain attractive to residents and businesses, to meet current health care needs, and to provide adequate opportunities for education, improvements needed to be made.

 

In February 2020, the Port completed a feasibility study for a dark fiber network in the City of Dayton and some adjacent, more dense areas in the county. The study showed that it is financially feasible to operate a fiber optic network under the public/private partnership model in our community. The project would provide access to broadband for any of the 1,278 businesses and residents in the project area that are interested in fiber service.

The Port will not be providing internet service to customers. The system will be what’s called an open access network, meaning any interested internet service provider that is willing to invest in equipment can offer fiber internet service to the premises by leasing strands of the Port’s fiber infrastructure. Basically, the Port builds the “road,” and the private sector “drives” on it to deliver service to customers.

The Port provided information and an invitation to partner to all existing service providers prior to applying for funds, and have signed contingency agreements with 3 companies – Columbia iConnect, PocketiNet, and Emerge by Inland Cellular – to lease fiber from the Port and deliver internet service to their existing and to new customers.

The Port of Garfield recently completed the same type of fiber infrastructure in Pomeroy, and customers there are receiving 1 gigabyte of service for $70 per month through the private internet providers. 50% of the premises in their project area are using this new service.

More information on the project can be found on the Port’s website at https://www.portofcolumbia.org/economic-development/broadband/ .

Working Washington 4.0

The Washington State Department of Commerce sent out a press release today announcing the new Working Washington 4.0 small business grant program. The application portal will be open for 12 days starting Monday, March 29 and closing Friday, April 9th. Applications will be handled by the Department of Commerce through an online portal. MORE INFO HERE

Landscaping & Weed Control RFPs Sought

The Port of Columbia is seeking Requests for Proposals (RFP) for professional services from qualified firms for the purpose of landscaping, irrigation maintenance & weed/pest control services at the Rockhill Industrial Park, Blue Mountain Station and other Port owned properties in Dayton, WA. It is the Port’s intent to use the information to enter into contract(s) for services for 2021. Information submitted should include a list of qualifications, proof of WA State licensing, proof of insurance, hourly labor rate, and materials mark-up.  The Port of Columbia encourages women and minority-owned businesses to apply. MORE INFO HERE

Comp Plan Updates To Be Considered

Updates and administrative changes to the Port of Columbia’s Comprehensive Plan will be considered for adoption at the Port of Columbia regular commission meeting on February 10, 2021 at 3:30 pm.  A public hearing will be held to take comments on the document, which can be viewed here.  Proposed changes are tracked in red. Please contact the Port office at 509-382-2577 or jennie@portofcolumbia.org if you have questions about the plan. Instructions for joining the meeting and the public hearing via Zoom will be posted with the meeting agenda on Monday, February 8.

New Working Washington 3.0 Grant Program Open

The Washington State Department of Commerce has opened a new round of small business grant funding aimed at providing assistance to businesses hurt by the most recent COVID-19 restrictions. Instead of being facilitated by local agencies this time (Port), the state will be handling the application process.  To review eligibility information and apply, visit the Working Washington 3.0 webpage. Port staff is ready to answer questions and provided help as needed.  Please call 509-382-2577 or email jennie@portofcolumbia.org for assistance.

2021 Budget Hearing Set

The Port of Columbia Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing Tuesday, November 10th at 3:30 pm to hear comments on the proposed 2021 budget, which can be viewed here. The meeting will take place via Zoom. Instructions for joining the meeting are on the agenda above.

Last Call for Grants

October 30th is the deadline to turn in applications for the Port of Columbia COVID-19 Small Business Relief fund. Has your business been financially harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic? Is your business in Columbia County, WA? Do you have 10 employees or less? You may be eligible for funding. visit our COVID-19 page for details, and read the press release here.

COVID-19 BUSINESS RESOURCES

Visit the Port’s COVID-19 page for business resources, including information on grants for Columbia County businesses.  Several grant funds have been combined to enable the broadest business support possible. This Business Resources document provides information for businesses trying to sort their way through the Coronavirus crisis.  New information includes guidance on forgivable expenses for your PPP loan as well as an Excel spreadsheet you can use to track PPP expenses.

Broadband Information Meeting August 31

The Port of Columbia will hold a Zoom meeting on Monday, August 31 from 6:00 – 7:30 pm to share information about their proposed broadband project in the City of Dayton and some adjacent outlying areas. Attendees will be able to ask questions, and will also be asked to fill out a short survey regarding their current service.

The Port contracted with PocketiNet, a Walla Walla-based company, to conduct a broadband feasibility study that was completed in February of this year.

“Port Commissioners hoped to be able to hold a public meeting to share information about the study in person, but the pandemic has made that impossible,” stated Jennie Dickinson, executive director of the Port of Columbia.

In addition to hearing a presentation on the Port’s proposed project, attendees will hear from Scott Hutsell, a Lincoln County Commissioner who also serves as the chair of the Public Works Board, a state funding agency that provides infrastructure funds to communities; Diana Ruchert, the manager of the Port of Garfield where a community broadband project is currently under construction; and Steve Mantle of Innov8 Ag Solutions who will speak to some of the ways the agricultural industry is using broadband to improve production.

The attendee survey will be available during the Zoom meeting via a link in the chat room, but can also be taken ahead of time by clicking here.

Click here to view meeting agenda. To join the Broadband Information Meeting via Zoom, go to www.bit.ly/PortZoom just prior to 6:00 pm on August 31 or you can join by phone by calling 315-813-7229 then entering the PIN: ‪229 898 120#.

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Masks Mandatory for Customers

Throughout not only Columbia County, but also the entire state of Washington, a new mandate has been issued by Governor Inslee requiring one to wear a mask in order to be serviced in a business. This comes into effect today, the 7th of July in 2020, and will continue for an unknown amount of time. So next time one plans to enter a business, they should be sure to not only be wearing a shirt and shoes, but also a mask – and please, socks are nice as well.


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