Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Connect Bertie"
Is Approved

The Bertie County Board of Education met in a working session this day and took a huge leap forward into the 21st Century. Dr. Chip Zullinger, School Superintendent, opened the meeting and asked for permission to change the schedule to move the Connect Bertie project approval to the beginning of the meeting.

With approval of the schedule change, Dr. Zullinger introduced some of the local citizens who have worked so hard to help the school system on numerous projects, giving specific recognition to Dr. David Peale, John Davis and Ron Wesson. According to Dr. Zullinger, each spent close to 1,000 hours of completely volunteer time trying get this project approved by the Golden Leaf Foundation, Century Link and the appropriate federal agencies.

I am still impressed with the ability of our School Superintendent, Dr. Zullinger, to keep moving Bertie County forward with great projects by getting people to work together. His track record is simply incredible. Dr. Zullinger (below left) and Chairman Emma Johnson (below right) have to be proud of what is being accomplished.

Several speakers came forward to endorse this great project, including John Davis (shown below).

Other speakers included Dr. David Peale (below right) and Ron Wesson, (below left) as well as Collins Cooper, Director of the Widsor-Bertie Chamber of Commerce and Steve Biggs, Director of Economic Development for Bertie County.

All were extremely excited about the potential of this project for Bertie County. Approval allows the county to take advantage of a $750,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation, $1,200,000 in Internet upgrades committed to the project by Century Link, and $250,000 in federal funds to provide free Internet to our most needy students.

The key issue for most of the county is the huge number of people who will get high speed broadband Internet access as a result of this project, even if they don't attend school. Century Link will be expanding the DSL capability of Bertie County to support the project, so everyone in the affected areas of the county will benefit from the vast expansion of network infrastructure.

The vote on the measure for approval, as it was proposed by Chairman Emma Johnson, was 4 to 1 in favor. Only Pamela Chamblee opposed the project.

After the meeting I spoke with County Manager Zee Lamb, and he was very excited about the Board of Education approval. He rattled off the number of actions he said the county had taken to help, from voting to set this project as the highest priority at the beginning of the Golden Leaf evaluation and including all subsequent steps and votes. It also included a meeting in Rocky Mount during a period when Golden Leaf was still not committed to the project at which the county asked Golden Leaf to defer the vote on the project so questions could be addressed, rather than end the evaluation.

Mr. Lamb said that Steve Biggs had kept the County informed of the belief by many potential businesses that this project would make Bertie County a better place to locate, which added to the value the County Commissioners saw in the project for our students.

Mr. Lamb's final comment was entusistic appreciation that the Board of Education and Dr. Zullinger were moving forward with a project that would be so beneficial for our students - as well as the population of our county in the remote areas not currently served by DSL. "Completion of this project will be a great step forward for Bertie County" said Mr. Lamb.


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