By Michele Smith
The Times 

Port of Columbia recipient of $2 million grant for broadband

Must secure matching funds within a six-month window


DAYTON—The Port of Columbia has taken a significant leap forward in its quest to bring broadband, high-speed internet access to the local community. In Olympia last week, the Port’s Executive Director Jennie Dickinson and Robert Greene, Manager of Communications and Internet Telecommunications for Columbia Rural Electric, met with representatives of the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to talk about how the local economy will benefit from such a project.

Dickinson was elated.

“We were awarded the $2 million grant, contingent upon providing a local match.”

She said the Port has six months to meet the $500,000 precontract match requirement for the project, which will cost $2.5 million to construct.

Sherwood Trust and the Port of Columbia are each contributing $20,000. The Warren Community Fund is contributing $15,000, and the Columbia County Fund is contributing $13,500, totaling $68,000.

Dickinson has worked closely with Dayton city managers on the project. At the end of June, she presented the project in detail to the Dayton City Council.

The city has received $350,000 through the American Rescue Plan, and Mayor Zac Weatherford is open to contributing those funds to the match requirement. Dickinson said she plans to schedule a formal request to the city in August.

Dickinson and one of the Port commissioners, two representatives from the Hospital District, and a representative from Columbia County Rural Library District, will speak to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) this week. They will discuss how this project and high-speed broadband internet will help them achieve their goals with the commissioners. Several private partner internet service providers have also been invited to the meeting, and this will alert people to the fact that this is a public/private partnership.

“I’ve asked some legislators to weigh in, but we’ll see who shows up,” she said.

Dickinson said she hopes to secure a $100,000 commitment from the BOCC.

Port of Columbia officials have been working on the broadband infrastructure project since 2019. When constructed, the infrastructure will be available to private internet service providers, who will be able to provide high-speed internet service to Dayton residents and businesses.


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