Cranberry supervisors will seek virus funds for internet upgrades

At the urging of a resident, Cranberry Township supervisors said Thursday they will press the county commissioners to tap coronavirus relief funds to upgrade internet services in rural areas within the township.

“I want to know if you can do anything to get us high speed internet,” said Bob Betzold of Hill City. “There’s millions in COVID funds that need to be used for the internet.”

Betzold was referring to about $4.5 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funds allocated to Venango County. The federal monies are focused on assisting communities in dealing with pandemic-related issues, and one area approved for funding is the improvement of rural broadband access.

Counties must spend the CARES funds by the end of November.

Betzold told the supervisors he has spoken with county officials but hasn’t had any replies about potential expansion of internet access from elected state officials whom he contacted. He said two internet providers, Armstrong and Comcast, have internet services in the area where he lives but they do not extend to his community.

“They wouldn’t need a tower … the cables are running out there and the poles are there,” said Betzold. “We have a lot of families with kids out there who need it for school and we have nothing.”

Township manager Chad Findlay said he would take up the issue with the county commissioners in an effort to spur the expansion of high speed internet in rural areas throughout the township.

“Yes, we’ll work with you,” said Harold Best, chairman of the supervisors.

In other business Thursday, Findlay told the supervisors he has submitted an application for the township to receive about $68,000 in CARES funding.

The township had asked to use part of the money to purchase and install protective plastic shields in front of the township office area, but that was turned down.

“We decided to split it, $27,842 for small business assistance and $27,842 for rent, mortgage or utility assistance,” said Findlay, adding the remainder is considered administration costs and that money would go to the county.

There are no guidelines in place yet as to how the money may be distributed.

Ben Breniman, the township zoning and code enforcement officer, said 18 building permits were filed within the township during the past month. They amounted to an estimated construction cost of $601,250.

“There was a lot of little stuff,” said Breniman, referring to remodeling work, new sheds and decks and pool installations.

Festival still on

The annual Cranberry Festival remains set for Sept. 19-20, but the schedule of events was sharply pared down last month due to pandemic-related health directives.

“At this time, the plan is still to do a car cruise and possible cruise route, goody bags for kids and a fireworks display,” said Findlay.

Supervisors voted to donate $3,000 to the festival committee to help defray costs.

Township resident Bonnie Summers told the supervisors the Oil City-Franklin Zonta Club will hold its second collection of materials for its COVID CARES kits from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the former Sears parking lot in the Cranberry Mall.

The organization is collecting items to help families cope with health directives in preparation for returning to school. Saturday’s collection will focus on hand wipes, individual packets of tissues and hand sanitizers and monetary contributions.