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Third District Congresswoman Cindy Axne, Mount Ayr superintendent Jason Shaffer, and Ringgold County Economic Development director Jodie Geist met via a Zoom teleconference Friday, February 19 to discuss COVID, broadband Internet access, and other subjects important to Ringgold County.
Axne was curious about how the Mount Ayr schools had handled the various COVID restrictions.
Shaffer explained the procedures the district put into place to open school in a face-to-face setting since August.
He credited the teachers and staff for stepping up with their planning for a mix of face-to-face and remote instruction.
He also said the students have been good to follow the guideline put into place and to deal with the challenges of learning at home when necessary.
“We can’t complain,” he said. “We’ve been able to provide a pretty normal year as we’re dealing with this.”
Shaffer added that lack of broadband access has been a challenge for those students who have been forced to learn from home without adequate Internet.
Geist picked up on that theme, stating that a Broadband Committee formed through her office has been unable to attract a company to bring broadband to the county.
She asked if some degree of federal financial support could be provided to the county supervisors to act as seed money to attract providers.
“If our Ringgold County supervisors received $100,000 we could put up three, maybe four towers,” she said. “Then we could say to that company, ‘Hey, here’s our contribution. Here’s how we can help you come in.”
Geist also wondered if other financial incentives could be put into place to allow broadband transmission to be installed on existing structures such as water towers.
Geist suggested additional training programs for broadband installers would help companies find qualified employees. Additional employees would allow companies currently backlogged with installation projects in one location to branch out to additional locations.
She said broadband access is the key to attracting new businesses and new residents to the county, which in turn would spur housing starts and generate even more economic activity.