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September 23rd, 2023

city beckys epic touchBecki Richardson, left, and Becky Scott talk to the Liberal City Commission Tuesday evening about some upcoming EPIC Touch projects and potential grant funding. Both received praise for the work put in with the installation of fiber Internet throughout the community. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


There are many projects going on throughout the Liberal community and Tuesday evening, the Liberal City Commission heard some requests for those projects. 

Early in the meeting came Items from Groups, during which EPIC Touch President Becky Scott and Sales Associate Becki Richardson talked about some upcoming fiber work. 

“We first want to express our appreciation for all the support the city has given us throughout the years as we’ve built on fiber broadband in Liberal and continue to do so,” Richardson said. “With the current build we’re doing, it’s been the Grant II build, and it’s a been a large build we’re doing underground from 15th Street down to parts of 7th Street. With our current grant, we have it built into seven phases, and we’re now almost done with that main line throughout all seven phases. That has been quite a big build, it passes 1,007 structures. The main line is almost complete, we’ve had several contractors in town through this build, during which we had weekly, then bi-weekly, then monthly huddle-ups. That gave us the opportunity to meet with City of Liberal representation, the contractors and improve communication efforts through this big build. We can’t say enough how much we appreciate the city’s support throughout all of this.”

Scott then talked to the commission about the LINC (Lasting Infrastructure and Network Connectivity) Grant through the state’s Office of Broadband Development. 

“This is additional money, the SPARK (Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas) Committee has allocated $30 million for broadband investment,” Scott said. “There are multiple facets to this program – there’s an end user connection piece and also a middle mile and a Internet exchange point program. The end user connection piece is between $20 to 25 million, and the middle mile/Internet exchange point is between $5 to 10 million. We’re looking at the end user connection program to try and get more end users connected to buried high speed and consistent broadband fiber Internet through EPIC Touch. We’re looking to fill in some gaps, which is what we’re applying for this grant money for. It’s about 190 locations, and we felt that area was the best area to apply for this grant because it’s a smaller program whereas the other grants have been between $80 to $100 million. The main reason we looked at this area is because there are no alleyways in that area, so all of the infrastructure has to come from the front of the homes, and that adds some cost because of the cement work that needs to be done, so we felt it would be a good area to apply for with this LINC program. This will cover anchor institutions such as Wheatridge Park Care Center, Good Samaritan Society-Liberal, MacArthur Elementary School, two churches, and several duplexes and apartment complexes. For 190 locations, we’re looking at a cost of about $500,000. The state guidelines have a sliding scale based on how much is granted and how much is matching funds. With this cost structure, we’re looking at a sliding scale of 70 percent grant and 30 percent matching requirement. Applications are due June 19, and right now, the state is giving a timeline of announcing awardees at the end of September. We just wanted to give you some information about what areas we were looking at and talk about how the City of Liberal could be a partner in this.”

“Right now, we’re contacting people and groups to get letters of support for this project so we’re able to continue building fiber in Liberal,” Richardson added. “Another component of this application is community co-investment, and that is a big factor when everything is all scaled and all the applications are looked at, so we do need some of that in this application. We don’t want any grant opportunities to slide by without us applying.”

After some more questions, the presentation was concluded. 

In the meeting’s new business, the commission approved the purchase of a new bus for CityBus utilizing KDOT funds for 80 percent of the purchase price. The commission also approved the purchase of the LION digital training system and accessories not to exceed $28,000, with the funds to come from a recent donation from Black Hills Energy. The purchase of new uniforms for the Liberal Police Department was also approved, with the funding to come from ARPA funds, and the commission also approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Liberal and the Liberal Area Coalition for Families for coordination during weather disasters and fires.

Also during the meeting, the commission discussed Liberal Animal Shelter transports. 

“Liberal already had a top-notch animal control program when I got here, so I want to express my appreciation to Tara [Logan] and the staff out there for everything they do, they’re doing a phenomenal job,” Liberal Police Chief Chet Pinkston said. “One of the things our shelter is at a disadvantage with is we have to rely on our professional partners and rescues to help us. They do a great job, and the reason the shelter is so successful is because of those partnerships. One of the issues we encounter is a significant problem with transporting the animals, and there are really only two options in dealing with that – you can either euthanize more, or ship animals out to places and rescues that are willing to take them. Our live release rate actually qualifies the Liberal Animal Shelter as a no-kill shelter, and that’s a goal of most animal shelters in the U.S. What Liberal has to do is work with those partners that transports animals each week to Wichita and Aurora, Colo. And it’s not just Liberal that benefits from this, there are a few other communities in the area this helps. When I found out the rescue partners aren’t always able to find enough volunteers to make these runs each week due to the time commitment and other circumstances, a solution that was proposed was to purchase our own vehicle. If that’s what is ultimately approved, I would propose offering a stipend or something similar to anyone willing to make those trips for us. I think that will increase the number of willing participants. The vehicles we already have would not be sufficient for this, they’ve got high mileage and they’re going to need to eventually be replaced in the future, that’s just a fact. Our intent is to become more self-sufficient when it comes to these transports.”

More discussion took place about how things would work logistically before the commission decided to bring the matter back at a future meeting.