By Amanda Ensinger
Prairie Township is moving forward with joining a fiber optic network with their neighboring communities.
During the Aug. 30 meeting, the board approved signing a master service agreement to join the network with Grove City, South-Western City Schools, Jackson Township, Pleasant Township and SWACO.
“Grove City has issued debt to put in a fiber optic network,” said Tracy Hatmaker, Prairie Township administrator. “This network will improve our capacity, as well as the speed of the Internet.”
All township facilities will have access to the network, including the community center, fire department and township hall.
According to Hatmaker, the township will be paying Grove City $22,000 a year for the next 20 years to help Grove City pay for the debt they incurred to install the network.
“We will redirect the Internet payments each township facility is currently paying toward this for 20 years,” Hatmaker said. “Basically, this will cost no more than what we already pay for Internet services.”
Hatmaker said that the township is paying a small part of the overall cost of the project, adding that other partners are paying significantly more to be a part of the network.
The fiber optic network cost $7.5 million to install with Grove City paying $1 million from their general fund, $2 million from a Franklin County infrastructure bank loan program and $4.5 million in bonds.
Hatmaker said the updated Internet also would enhance the work Prairie Township is doing with its neighbors.
“We have a fire partnership with Jackson Township and a partnership with Grove City for EMS dispatching services and this improved connectivity with strengthen those relationships,” Hatmaker said. “This partnership also will ensure more efficiency in southwest Franklin County as a whole.”
While the network will only be available to township facilities at first, the township hopes that businesses will be able to join in the future.
“We hope to make it available to employers as a benefit to having their business in the township,” Hatmaker said. “However, it is too early to say when that will be.”
Township facilities plan to start connecting to the network in October.
After talking connectivity at the meeting, residents asked the trustees what support the township is giving Texas victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“I don’t think we can do that,” said Doug Stormont, Prairie Township trustee. “Is that something legal services can look into?”
According to Hatmaker, the township can make certain types of donations, as long as they are to a non-profit and not another jurisdiction.
Prairie Township Fire Chief Chris Snyder said the township has helped with relief efforts in the past.
“During Hurricane Katrina, we sent two men down for three or four weeks to help with the efforts and made a great contribution,” Snyder said. “Prairie Township has always been there to lend a hand and always will. Currently, we are monitoring any requests and currently have not received any.”
Snyder added that the cleanup efforts also need to be controlled and just showing up without requests can cause more harm than help.