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Broadband, infrastructure and behavioral health among Carroll commissioners’ priorities for federal COVID funding

While jurisdictions in Maryland await federal guidelines on how to spend COVID-19 relief dollars, Carroll County commissioners reviewed potential projects brought forward by various department heads and discussed which will take priority.

Based on a Thursday discussion, improving internet connections to underserved parts of the county is at the top of the list for commissioners.

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During a fiscal recovery funds presentation in July, the board was briefed for the first time on project packages from several different county departments.

County Administrator Roberta Windham reported that there are a total of 54 county projects being proposed which total $57 million in overall spending. Because the county is slated to receive about $32 million in federal aid, some projects will not be funded.

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At Thursday’s meeting, Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said he expects broadband will be the biggest issue moving forward.

He suggested fully funding the information technology department request of almost $18 million, which would leave the board with about $15 million for other projects.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, agreed.

“We want to get the underserved population high-speed internet,” he said.

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Weaver noted the move would “help solve a major issue in Carroll County.”

Among IT’s proposals, one would require $15 million to provide fiber connections to more than 3,000 unserved and underserved premises in the county.

Frazier said the department of public works’ top 10 projects, totaling $7.2 million, is next on his list of priorities, as well as a request from citizen’s services for the design and engineering of a family shelter relocation project costing $52,000.

Frazier also noted he supports providing funds to support behavioral health services in the county, with Rothstein suggesting they dedicate as many dollars as they can to that cause.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said he would be willing to grant the sheriff’s office their $80,000 request to purchase 3D accident reconstruction equipment.

“I support everything coming down the line,” Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, said.

Moving forward, the board agreed to hold another meeting where county staff would have the opportunity to come back with more information on their proposed projects.

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