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New service offers life in the fast lane
Fiber optic lines provide economic development boost
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 In other business Monday morning, the Barton County Commission:

• Authorized the upgrade in the county’s mapping software at a cost of $4,950. Currently, the Mapping Division has an ESRI Basic Software License which allows the cartographer to work with map files that are shared with Kansas state agencies and other counties. Cartographer Bj Wooding asked that the commission approve the upgrade to a Standard License. The level adds more functions including managing geo-databases that are required for the NG911 project. 

Wooding said more and more projects she’s involved with require this upgrade, especially the new 911 system. This will allow all the 911 information in the state to be in one database, making it easier when responders cross county lines to assists other agencies.

• Approved an additional cost for a sidewalk improvement project. In January, the commission approved a Suchy Construction bid of $30,852.93 to improve sidewalks at the Health Department, 1300 Kansas, and the Office Building, 1806 12th, both in Great Bend.  Suchy billed the county an additional $625 for 25 gallons of sealer. It was noted, even with the addition, the Suchy bid is still below the one other offered bid, County Administrator Richard Boeckman said.

It was noted that the additional sealer will prolong the life of the sidewalk.

• Approved a three-year agreement for continued participation in the Non-State Public Employer health care benefit plan. Under the contract, the county and its employees would be allowed to participate in the health benefit risk pool. Covering all of 2016, 2017 and 2018, the plan describes participation, premiums and payment, eligibility and other such items, Boeckman said. 

The county has participated in this plan for six year, having opted in for two previous three-year terms. Prior to this, the county had been self-insured, but this program allows the risk to be spread statewide, helping keep premiums lower.   

• Approved two fund transfers: $200,000 from the Health Coverage Trust to Employee Benefits which will help assure that Social Security, Retirement, Workers’ Compensation, Health Insurance and other appropriate benefits are funded at a level that is responsible for the county; and $3,000 from the General Fund to Teen Court, providing support for the Teen Court program; 

The commission also approved the transfer of funds from the General Fund to Project STAY, which is the anti-truancy program through Juvenile Services. Kansas law provides that juveniles may be required to pay a supervision fee to be used to fund community juvenile justice programs. Under the resolution, a manner for transferring those funds to Juvenile Services is created.  

 Nex-Tech’s Maggie Basgall asked Barton County commissioners Monday morning to look at the Internet as a pipe. The bigger that pipe, the more that can flow through it and the faster it will travel.

That is the concept behind the fiber-optic-to-premises program the communications company is bringing to Great Bend, said Basgall, Next-Tech’s community development specialist.

“We have a telephone franchise agreement with Great Bend to put in fiber optics to part of the city,” she said. At first, the new system will only run along 10th Street.

“Fiber-to-premises is very expensive to deploy,” she said. “We have to do it in stages.” 

They hope to include Main Street next year, then branch out into other parts of the community and into rural areas.

“This is the cream-of-the-crop technology,” Basgall said. But, it is something many businesses are craving.

Fiber-To-The-Premises is the delivery of telephone, broadband (Internet) and television services over optical fiber from a its switching equipment to a home/business, Basgall said. Fiber is used instead of any existing copper wire or coaxial cable because it can provide vastly higher bandwidth which, in turn, improves the speed and quality of voice, video and broadband services.  

This unlimited bandwidth will provide for much faster downloads and uploads of data and files to and from the Internet. It offers a rate of 1 gig, which means one gigabyte (1,000 megabytes) of data can be transmitted per second (by comparison, most local users now have around five megabyte service).

Because of the unlimited amount of bandwidth that FTTP brings subscribers, it can be an important economic development tool, Basgall said.

“This puts Great Bend in a unique position,” Basgall said. As of now, only one in five American homes and businesses have access to this technology.

“This is a huge economic development tool for the city and the county,” she said. Since this is something industry wants, it will help level the playing field by putting Barton County on the map with larger communities vying for new businesses and residents.