Genesee County Lawmakers Call on G / FLRPC to Provide Answers to Broadband Availability Question
As Genesee County lawmaker representing the rural towns of Elba, Byron and Bergen, Christian Yunker said people constantly came to him asking when they would benefit from high-speed internet service in their area.
“What am I telling them? Yunker asked on Monday, pointing his question to Paul Gavin, the newly hired executive director of the Genesee / Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council.
Gavin was at the Legislature’s Civil Service Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse to introduce himself and brief the committee on some of the agency’s priorities for 2022.
He was joined by Jay Gsell, the longtime former County Director who has been employed as the Acting Executive Director of G / FLRPC for the past year, and Richard Sutherland, a planner with the organization that serves the nine counties in the Finger Lakes region, including Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming.
Gavin’s response focused on initiating a broadband internet gap analysis, which could take up to six months, and then putting funding in place, fixing any issues. that would invariably arise and the conclusion of a contract with an Internet service provider.
“I would tell them that we are at least a year away,” Gavin said, adding that the process would be shortened with the use of local and / or state funds. “(Having to get) federal funding takes longer. “
Gsell, who has been tasked with streamlining the agency’s operations in the temporary role, said Genesee and Wyoming counties have yet to reach a level where they can offer a high-speed internet plan to a third party ( like Spectrum or Empire Access).
County Director Matt Landers said Genesee had “already informally set aside some of our ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act money) to make it happen.”
“I know some of our cities are better positioned – and have dedicated funds – to implement it,” he said.
Sutherland said New York has authorized a broadband gap study for each county, looking for citizen input to determine internet speed, availability in certain areas and what people would be willing to pay. for the service.
He said the state Civil Service Commission hoped to complete the study by May 2022.
Landers said Genesee cannot pass a plan without county-wide data showing where the gaps are with all of its vendors – noting that most of the information is proprietary.
It is important to know the financial means of the cities and “essential to have this data first”, he said.
Gavin suggested that counties put pressure on the PSC stressing the urgency to do something and work with the G / FLPLC to implement a strategy that works best.
Originally from Dunkirk, Gavin joined the regional planning council after holding a similar position with the Gulf Regional Planning Commission in Biloxi, Mississippi. Previously he worked for the Port of Pascagoula (Miss.) And the Department of Transportation in New York and Nebraska.
He is a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy and Saint-Bonaventure University. He, his wife and daughter will reside in the Rochester area, he said.
Gavin credited Gsell for his role in designating the G / FLRPC as an economic development district.
“This is important… because it allows you to spend the funds for the administration of economic development and, as you know, it really comes from the federal government right now,” he advised.
He said the G / FLRPC is available to assist counties in grant writing, strategic planning and land use planning.
“We want you to look to us and seek us out to help you. Yes you can go to consulting firms and yes they will do a fabulous job and yes you will pay a lot, a lot more for this service than we can provide to you, “he said.
Gavin and Gsell said the agency is seeking a 10% increase in the county’s annual contributions, from $ 9,600 to $ 10,600. The last increase was in 2002.
“The 2022 draft budget includes many reductions in operating expenses and continues our long-term history of strategic but frugal budgeting and cost containment,” said Gsell.
Photo: Jay Gsell, left; Paul Gavin and Richard Sutherland. Photo by Mike Pettinella.