Digital 395, the Internet superhighway broadband infrastructure project designed to bring cutting edge data transmission to a large portion of U.S. 395 and surrounding communities, was denied funding from part of the $787 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus package last week.
During Tuesday’s Board meeting, Mono County Supervisors learned the reason given had to do with certain “unclear” aspects of the project’s operation once installation is completed.
Washington D.C. funding administrators in charge of reviewing and approving ARRA funding requests told Praxis that in this particular round, 70 out of 1,800 applications were funded.
Vallejo-based Praxis Associates, the project developer, had sought ARRA funding to cover 80 percent of the project’s cost, estimated at between $110-120 million.
The Praxis application adequately described construction of the “backbone” of the system from Victorville to Carson City, also called the “middle mile,” but didn’t address the “last mile” and how the system would be run after it’s built.
Early reports of the project’s demise, however, appear to have been premature and greatly exaggerated. “It was dead, but it’s being resuscitated,” said the Supes’ Vice Chair Hap Hazard.
The Board approved a draft of a new letter of support for a second application. The letter notes that several “last mile” providers, including Inyo Networks, NPG Cable and Schat.net among others, are lined up to do business with Praxis and deliver “last mile” service once the backbone is online.
Praxis executives are still banking on Digital 395 as a viable stimulus recipient. President Barack Obama has stated one of his administration’s goals is to expand broadband access to more of the country, and Digital 395, which is designed specifically to address that goal, has massive support in California. Public utilities, local and regional governments, and Sacramento lawmakers up to and including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are solidly behind the project.
Thanks a million for vacancies
Mary Booher from County Human Resources updated the Board on several still-vacant positions, which, while remaining unfilled, have managed to generate considerable savings to the County budget.
The savings are approximately $1 million to date. Booher also reported that the average length of time jobs are remaining open or otherwise unfilled is between 3 and 4 months.
Vice Chair Hap Hazard opined only that the County has to be careful. “We’re saving a lot of money, and it looks great on paper, but need to be thoughtful of how much we may be overtaxing some of the existing staff,” Hazard said. “We budget based on anticipated staffing needs. Some people don’t mind the overtime, but others want the time off.”
Several jobs remain open, including three vacancies in the Sheriff’s Department.