By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS — The town is seeking bids for an expansion of broadband access to the areas of Starr and Bushendorf roads.
Town officials anticipate using about $200,000 of the COVID relief funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, to pay for the infrastructure project.
To be eligible for the ARPA funds, the project would have to be bid out through a Request for Proposal, or RFP, Town Supervisor George McHugh said at Thursday’s meeting of the town council.
“This is a mechanism that can be used to use about $200,000 of our grant money towards internet in areas that would not normally get internet because they are underserved and it’s just not cost effective for the utility companies to go in there on their own and put in the infrastructure — there is just not enough of a return on their investment,” McHugh said.
The broadband project would use about half of the COVID relief funds allocated to the town.
“We talked about using about $200,000 of it for the internet expansion on Bushendorf and primarily on Starr Road, getting it to those two locations, about three or four miles’ worth,” McHugh said. “And then the other, a little over $200,000, using that for lavatory facilities for Joralemon Park and for Riverside Park.”
Town Councilman Brandon Lefevre asked if Blodgett Hill Road would be included in the expansion project.
“I was talking with a resident who lives on Blodgett and he has HughesNet and it’s absolutely horrible and it’s a waste of his money to pay for it, but it’s the only option he has right now,” Lefevre said.
McHugh responded that Blodgett Hill Road would not be included in the project.
“No, not with this,” the town supervisor said. “I know that Mid-Hudson [Cable] is working on Lindskoog Road because it is dense enough to make it worth their while, but this would not include Blodgett. It would be Starr and just shy of North Lane, and then Bushendorf [Road].”
Installing the infrastructure to deliver broadband access is a costly investment for internet service providers and if the area has too few homes, the project is not cost effective for the company, town board members have said at previous meetings.
McHugh said broadband is a major issue in many areas and it is his hope that grant funding may become available in the near future.
The town of Westerlo was awarded $1,687,500 in federal funds this month to install extensions of broadband routes along public roads that will bring internet access to several hundred underserved households, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-20, announced last week.
The Westerlo broadband expansion project was among 10 community projects in the Capital Region to be included in the federal budget this year, Tonko said, and the only one aimed at expanding broadband access.