Lumos selected as recipient of GREAT grant in Randolph Co.

ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Board of Commissioners met Monday to discuss the plans for the expansion of broadband fiber, land reappraisal, and the restructuring of four of the county’s fire districts.

The board approved an amended Memorandum of Understanding with Lumos, formerly Northstate, for the payment of $50,000 as a county-match for the expansion of fiber broadband in Randolph County.

“The expansion of broadband is a big issue for our county, for our state, and our association has been lobbying for that,” said Chairman Darrell Frye. “This has been a number one priority for counties all over North Carolina, and therefore it is eligible for ARPA funding. That is what will be used for Randolph County’s $50,000 match.”

While Lumos was already committed to the expansion of broadband services in Randolph County, according to their Senior Director of Marketing Derek Kelly, they were also selected as the recipient of the GREAT Grant in Randolph County, which helps bring high-speed internet to North Carolinians, businesses and farms in the most rural and remote areas of the state.

“We announced we’re going to build fiber to a million homes over the next five years with our own funding, and the grant stuff just kind of gets added on top of that,” Kelly said. “We announced that we are making a $51 million investment in Randolph County and western Winston-Salem. The Randolph County portion of that is about 15,000 homes that we’re going to be building fiber to in Asheboro, which is about a $15 to $20 million investment that we’re making outside of any of the grant programs. So we’re actively working on that, and we’ll be starting construction in the coming months.”

The board was also given a presentation on the Critical Incident Stress Management program in Randolph County and its importance to first responders and emergency management staff.

“I want to present to you what critical stress management is and what it means for our county,” said Emergency Management Coordinator Major Christie McCorquodale. “Research shows that first responders appear to be at increased risk for suicide. Firefighters and law enforcement officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. EMS clinicians are more likely to take their own lives than general members of the public. Public safety communicators are also at risk as well. Studies have found that nearly one quarter experience depression and that as many as 24% have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The program aims to provide peer-to-peer consultation as well as support through multiple formats for those in critically stressful environments.

“For many years, Christie has worked passionately and tirelessly to foster this program that’s making a huge impact on the mental health and wellbeing of our first responders,” said Wellness Administrator Sam Varner. “We’ve been working with Christie over the last year to really expand this program and to help it make a difference in what we deem our other ‘high-stress’ departments.”

The board of commissioners then set a public hearing for a proposed schedule of true-values of land reappraisal for November 7.

In 2021, the Randolph County Board of Commissioners adopted a four-year reappraisal cycle rather than the traditional eight-year cycle, which advanced the reappraisal from 2025 to 2023.

“The primary goal of a reappraisal is uniformity and fairness,” said Tax Administrator Debra Hill. “The process is not to increase revenue or provide tax breaks but to fairly, equally, and uniformly appraise real property at its true value in money. We don’t make the market; we follow the market.”

The process of restructuring the Fire Districts in Randolph County to remove the 15-cent tax rate cap in the districts also continued with another four new districts brought before the board, following the previous eight that had already been restructured.

The board set a public hearing for the Bennett, Seagrove, Southwest, and Ulah Fire Districts restructuring for December 5.

These fire departments will still cover the same areas, and the only change will be that they will no longer have to be held to a 15-cent fire tax cap. However, the departments still need to have board approval first to actually increase taxes.

“The creation of a new county service district does not change the current fire tax rate, nor does it guarantee an increase in said rate,” Frye said. “The County Commissioners shall continue to set tax rates in the same manner as before.”

The board approved a 48-day extension as well as a $100,000 increase to the owner’s contingency for the Detention Center project and the transfer of $1,192,972 of unused funds from the Trinity Middle School Project to the Northwest Randolph Human Services Center Capital Project.

The Randolph County Board of Commissioners will next meet November 7.

By Ryan Henkel