Laurels: Improvements will come after miscommunication

Published 8:46 am Sunday, December 12, 2021

Laurel to miscommunication around state funding going elsewhere for the same kinds of projects local leaders are pursuing.

Included in the state budget was millions of dollars in funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities in Stanly County — money that will certainly be welcomed by the county’s leaders. The trouble is that an initial list of local projects mistakenly attributed them to Rowan County.

People who work in health care and social services saw the funding, that other organizations were getting money for Rowan County projects and thought, “What about us?”

Organizations like the United Way and county government agencies have worked hard to provide resources to fight a scourge of overdoses and help those struggling with mental health issues. They’d welcome an infusion of state funding to assist with their work.

But state legislators say they weren’t approached by local folks to ask for funding. They didn’t know state funding, specifically, was on the wish list.

It may seem strange to give a laurel to miscommunication, but the product of the disagreement will be better communication. Local agencies know what they need to do in the future and legislators know they’ll need to answer more emails, field more phone calls and participate in more meetings before the next legislative session.

There’s also a silver lining in the fact that Rowan County’s legislators have the seniority in Raleigh to secure millions of dollars in funding for local projects.

Laurel to the news that Open Broadband is ready to launch a new internet service for resident of rural Rowan County.

This isn’t your dad’s or your older brother’s internet service. It’s a mixture of satellite internet and cell phone data. People who live a mile from the nearest house can aim their receivers at elevated points in the county where broadcasters are installed and get broadband speeds at a better price than they’d otherwise pay.

The start of Open Broadband’s service is particularly good because it shows what’s possible when federal relief funding is put to good use. Rowan County gave the company $150,000 of its own funds and federal relief to incentivize the expansion.

Just like the electrification of rural America in the early to mid-20th century, the introduction of high-speed internet brings a whole new set of possibilities for work and quality of life.

Laurel to improvements for Rowan County in the state’s distress rankings.

The improvement from tier one to tier two means a lower chance for some forms of state funding, but it also means people are doing better financially. Tier three is the highest ranking and is reserved for only the 20 most prosperous counties.

Rowan’s improvement primarily is due to positive changes in population growth and unemployment. While there will be situations where less-fortunate counties score grant funding over Rowan County, the community should be A-OK with a better employment rate and population growth.

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