Opportunity for Hot Springs Village to Create Broadband Utility District
Greg Jones, Chairman of the Hot Springs Village POA Governmental Affairs Committee presented a recommendation to the Board of Directors on June 1, 2021. The recommendation to hire a broadband director was unanimously supported by the committee.
At the Board Discussion Session, Greg said the GAC had significant discussion before coming to this recommendation. Broadband has been a “key initiative that they have been focused on for several years.”
Jones said the committee has heard from realtors who have been unable to sell homes that don’t have broadband service and customers who pay high internet service fees.
The GAC has been working diligently with the state legislators “to look to see if there are ways that the Village could potentially benefit from some of the broadband grant programs that are being pushed by the federal government as part of COVID.”
“The Village does not really receive any government grants, state or federal,” stated the Chair. Jones said they are trying to find ways to “fix that problem.”
“The state legislature passed the ability for organizations to create a broadband utility district,” explained Jones. Originally this was going to be limited to cities and municipalities. “We fought hard to get Hot Springs Village included as part of that bill to allow us to establish a broadband utility district. We would be the only one because it actually limits to very large communities to be able to be a part of this, even if they aren’t cities or municipalities.”
Since we can create a broadband utility district, we will now be eligible for funds from the state. The state of Arkansas is due to receive billions of dollars from the federal government for infrastructure. This includes broadband buildout.
The GAC feels in order to achieve this, it will require dedicated staff or a “dedicated somebody to focus on this issue.”
What needs to happen – we need to talk with the carriers to see if we could potentially form a partnership with someone to even build such a broadband network to cover the whole or part of the Village.
GAC met with First Electric Co-op a few weeks ago. First Electric is working with the city of Cabot to build gigabit service for every place in Cabot. Cabot will lease the system from First Electric, using grant and bond funds.
Jones predicts that Cabot will be able to attract new residents by advertising as a “Gigabit City.” This new broadband service will even encourage the retention of current residents. We have the same opportunity in Hot Springs Village as Cabot does.
First Electric will start working on this for HSV in late 2022. If a grant was obtained, we could start working on this issue even earlier, because it is “really about the money,” said Greg.
AT&T has significantly pulled back their broadband offerings in the Village. There are some residents that do not have adequate broadband service. Greg said there is no broadband service on Minorca.
Greg feels that with a “concerted effort,” we could be successful at making this happen. This position could be filled by a staff person or a consultant who would need to understand technology, the political landscape, and potentially possess skills to write grant proposals.
Also, Jones wants to look at potential funding for other projects in the future. Arkansas will receive 3.2 billion dollars from the federal government for the infrastructure program and at this time it is unknown how these funds will be distributed. This may open the door for us to apply for other grants.
Board Member, Gary Belair asked, “did I hear you say that the legislature is going to allow this private community, Hot Springs Village, to participate in a grant which would be an exception to their history.”
Jones answered, “yes, we were able to get the legislature to pass, as part of the broadband utility district legislation, that it would allow us to create a broadband utility district, which would make us eligible for state grants.”
Pam Avila asked, “Greg, do you see this position as being full-time or as being part-time but extremely focused?”
Jones stated it probably could be part-time, but extremely focused. Potentially, this is something a consultant could do. Belair said the Finance and Planning Committee recommended this position be filled with a consultant.
Additionally, Jones recommends finding people that are “friendly to us” to run for the legislature offices to replace those who may be retiring from public service positions in the near future.
By Cheryl Dowden, June 9, 2021
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06/09/2021 — 5:28 pm
While you budget for infrastructure,please allow a little bit for bike trail paving.ideally paved from Balboa marina to Desoto club.i t would be a showcase amenity for our trails ,and handicapped could have a place to roll safely and a natural trail for bikes, hiking and families. too rough now.
06/09/2021 — 6:46 pm
I think this is yet another unnecessary position. We have a new fiber network being installed and Elon Musk Starlink system will be available this fall. The Starlink system is amazing. 4,000 satellites circle the earth. I went online and later this year anyone in the Village can access. The cost is 500 for equipment and 100 a month. Every part of the planet will eventually have access. I put in our zip code and we should have access this fall. Also other networks are in the works. With 15,000 people, let the market come to us. Google the Starlink System. The Falcon 9 rocket is launching satellite systems every month.
06/10/2021 — 8:38 am
I continue to be amazed at the desire of some to keep spending yet more of our revenues. One comment I have heard is that with turnover, we need one point of contact to make this happen. Now I am not saying having someone as a point of contact is a bad idea, but unless I have missed something, isn’t the GAC that source for the Village. And at least in Saline County (which appears to continue to be our focus these days) do we not have a JP whose job it is to assist with these types of programs? Why do we continue to drift into development tasks when we have proven we can’t take care of what we have? Why do we need to increase an already out-of-control line item by adding yet more expense? Oh heck, it’s just money; we can just raise the assessments and that will fix all of our problems!
06/13/2021 — 2:16 am
06/10/2021 — 4:17 pm
Did Lesley Nalley stop by the Village and suggest this? I’m with Lloyd
06/11/2021 — 10:00 am
Hot Springs Village is an IRS Code §528 “Certain homeowners associations” community. Because we have gates, that restrict the general public, we’re not eligible to receive federal funds. If we wanted to receive that money we would have to take down our gates.
The IRS website explains in detail why this is the law and gives court decisions to bolster their reasoning. Arkansas also restricts state funds for IRSC 528 communities.
We can’t be a private community with different rules and government and expect the state or federal government to give us money– no matter how appalling it may seem.—Gene
06/13/2021 — 2:18 am
06/12/2021 — 7:34 am
Greg thank you for your due diligence and everyone involved in broadband discussion for their keen interest.
Since 2019 , I too have been tracking & participating in multiple broadband initiatives in Mississippi thru a Federal rural broadband grant which one of clients received $69 million for 6 rural SW Mississippi counties largely due to a needs assessment my company helped put a fine point on to enable Public Service Commissioner Brandon Pressley the basis to Shepard these funds to our State.
Consultants may not be your best path as the monies are already allocated in the latest American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 which includes $ 365.9 billion in direct funding for state,local,tribal and territory infrastructure systems. Details & breakouts are online just Google Council of State Government’s ARP Act 2021.
The path of least resistance in my estimation is to have the GAC invite 2 key Arkansas politicians to simultaneously visit HSV the first is your Public Service Commissioner the second is your State Representative.
Make a presentation of needs analysis which I believe I read from one of our citizens has already been done in great detail. This will bolster your case , enable the PSC to put HSV in the funding funnel & establish a personal connection with your political connections & vice versa.
Finally , recommend a Village Voice photo opportunity be published to allow your constituents & politicians a platform for positive Public Relations & possibilities of securing votes for reelection!! This is your quid pro quo avenue
My instincts & past observations tell me my advise will circumvent any hire for a consultant at this time.
If you do hire a consultant chances are they will have multiple similar clients who hire them lobbyist and then you are just watering down your impact & wasted your money , time and voice .
My think outside the box recommendations will help you reduce the uncertainties in your decision making to hire a consultant
1. It’s FREE , HSV is cash strapped
2. Establish a personal connection with politician
3. Education =Knowledge , all parties will wise up
4. Enlightenment = Problem Solving
5. If it doesn’t work you’ve still established a working relationship to build upon for the future
See tomorrow, today!
06/12/2021 — 3:12 pm
Sounds like Great Advice – I hope your suggestions are considered and that the train is not already going down some other track.
06/13/2021 — 2:19 am
06/12/2021 — 8:22 pm
Thank you Steve for your supportive comments. I see too many well intentioned Committees with agendas that need further vetting to make informed articulate cases to avoid misguided expensive mistakes.
I would encourage everyone to read the ARP Act 2021 pipeline of our Federal tax dollars at work!
Please be proactive & Contact your HSV GAC & BOD to reiterate & voice our shared opinions
06/15/2021 — 7:56 am
Are you confident that ARP Act 2021 overrides the IRS restrictions mentioned in Gene Garner’s post? Just curious.
06/15/2021 — 6:43 pm
That’s a question I don’t think is something either one of us is qualified to answer definitively.
However , I do know your Public Service Commissioners staff have personnel who specialize in answering a wide range of regulatory issues.
Which is why good intentions by both Gene & myself & HSV would be well served to consult the pros as I have outlined in my commentary.
Meanwhile, I will consult my wife as she works in the regulatory field for the State of Mississippi Public Utilities Staff.