FLORENCE — Pinal County is applying for a $6.8 million state grant to install equipment and towers throughout the county to improve access to affordable and reliable internet, especially in rural areas.
The goal is broadband service in every home in the county.
The Board of Supervisors approved the application Wednesday for the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Broadband Development Grant. Partners Zayo Group and the Pinal County Education Service Agency are joining Pinal County in the application. Pinal’s contribution would be $2 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and other state and local fiscal recovery funds.
Tami Ryall, Pinal County grants administrator, told the board last summer that many parts of the county don’t have adequate internet service. The Oracle Fire District didn’t have enough connectivity to hold a meeting on the Zoom platform, Ryall said. County leadership asked staff to put together a team, develop a solution and determine what it would cost.
Zayo Group completed a fiber-optic network in June of last year that includes 320 miles of high-capacity fiber connecting schools and libraries throughout Pinal County. “The most difficult and time-consuming part of delivering on this network is already done,” a county team member told the board last summer.
The proposed solution is to build a county-owned wireless network by adding 35 radio locations with 60-foot towers where needed and adding fiber to county-owned sites as needed. The total cost is estimated at $8.8 million with a six-month installation time, but consultants proposed a $2 million first phase to bring the project to eastern Pinal first, where the need is the greatest.
Ryall told the board last summer this would show a local commitment as the county seeks grants to complete the work. Towers would go on county or school property to reduce the number of permits the county would need and shorten installation time, she said.
In other action Wednesday:
- The board approved a right of way easement agreement between Pinal County and SunZia Transmission for the installation of power lines. In western Pinal, the lines will follow the Earley Road alignment from Picacho Reservoir west to an area near Eleven Mile Corner.
Pinal County will earn an appraised price of $141,856 for the use of county right of way. The parties will reevaluate the price after 25 years, the board was told on Feb. 9.
After 15 years of planning, the SunZia Transmission Project hopes to begin building 570 miles of extra-high-voltage transmission lines and substations next year, carrying renewable energy from New Mexico into central Arizona.
SunZia will host an open house in Pinal County and will notify local residents. Information from the open house will also be available on SunZia’s website. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will host public meetings to review the project’s Environmental Impact Statement this summer.
- The board approved the sale of an animal control truck to the Huachuca City Police Department for $1. The truck is a 2005 GMC double cab truck that is not being used and was going to be sold at auction.
Vice Chairman Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, asked for more detail, noting “the truck market is hot right now.” He said taxpayers will ask why the truck was given to an agency outside the county without trying to get something for it.
Audra Michael, Pinal County Animal Care and Control director, said the truck hasn’t been used in seven years, it has 205,000 miles on it and she’d like to help Huachuca City. She said Coolidge also needs a truck, and the county may loan the city one.
- The board approved several new job classifications to meet current staffing needs and provide necessary services. These are veterinary assistant in Animal Care and Control, guardian investigator in Public Fiduciary, deputy director of Human Resources and clinical liaison in Superior Court.
Funding for these positions is included in each department’s budget except for clinical liaison, a position that is required by law, the board was told.