POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Commissioners met on Thursday afternoon and discussed broadband and humane officers.
All three commissioners — Rick Handley, Sam Nibert and Tracy Doolittle — were present at the meeting along with county clerk Diana Cromley and county administrator John Gerlach.
The commissioners invited Senators Mitch Carmichael and Eric Tarr to the meeting to discuss broadband in Mason County. Handley said that Gov. Jim Justice proposed a possible broadband expansion program and wanted the Senators to give them more information.
Handley said the commission applied for and received a broadband study grant for $75,000. Handley said that approximately half of the students in Mason County do not have broadband access in their homes.
Handley told the Senators that he knows how much of an “economic development boost” broadband expansion would be.
Senator Carmichael said they knew lack of broadband was an issue in West Virginia before the COVID-19 pandemic. Carmichael said there is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program that identifies blocks. Through this program and study, Carmichael said there are approximately 121,000 households in West Virginia that do not have access to broadband.
Carmichael said the expansion program would eventually, over a 10 year program, provide broadband services to every household.
According to Carmichael, Gov. Justice signed an executive order to assist broadband service providers in receiving a type of loan to get a contract for the broadband expansion program.
Carmichael said through the FCC website, an address can be searched to look up when the block in broadband will be enabled with services.
Sen. Carmichael called the program a “game changer for our state.”
During the meeting, commissioners discussed humane officers. In the last meeting, the commission approved Jessi Hall to continue as a humane officer with the Mason County Animal Shelter. Hall is also the dog warden for the county. During that last meeting, commissioners discussed allowing Wayne Hall to be a part-time humane officer, but wanted clarification on firearms and training before making a decision.
Jessi attended the meeting and asked that Wayne be approved as a humane officer as well. Jessi said the two go on a lot of the calls together, and without Wayne being a humane officer, he should not respond to calls. Jessi said there are some situations where she could not handle the situation alone or at all.
Jessi said that currently, dog calls take priority for her over humane calls, because that is what she was hired to do. If she were the only humane officer, Jessi said she would have to prioritize humane calls before dog calls.
Jessi said that both she and Wayne have several firearm trainings. Gerlach said the sheriff requests the duo complete new trainings that the deputies do to be humane officers. Jessi said they would be willing to complete more trainings.
Commissioners approved a motion to allow both Jessi and Wayne to be humane officers after training and the sheriff’s authorization.
In other business, the commissioners recognized Christine Craft for retiring after 20 years of service to the Gallipolis Ferry Community Center.
Commissioners approved awarding the audit contract to BHM in Huntington based on the highest score.
Handley said the Tri-River Transit public bus service will be changing the schedule. The new schedule will be released on Oct. 9 and will begin Oct. 13.
The next Mason County Commission meeting is scheduled for Oct. 1 at 4 p.m.
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Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.