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The Pulaski Electric System Board of Directors are moving forward with steps to pursue grants to expand fiber internet access in Giles County.

The board discussed a three-tiered plan of fiber expansion and approved a motion to apply for a grant through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at its July 27 meeting. The NTIA has made a total of $288 million in grant funding available with individual awards in amounts between $5 to $30 million.

The grant release details that “municipalities, non-profit, or cooperative that own and/or operate broadband networks are encouraged to participate as a covered partnership.”

Due to this requirement that the lead applicant must be a government entity, the Powerboard discussed reaching out to both the county and city in partnership. The board would seek to apply with the county as the lead applicant, but due to the county commission’s next full meeting taking place only one day before the application is due, the city would be asked to complete an application as well, should it prove necessary.

Since the meeting, both the county commission and the Pulaski city council voted to act as lead applicant for the grant as needed. With the commission’s vote, it will serve as lead applicant.

The NTIA grant is a Federal Grant and as such has related restrictions. The location for this particular grant is limited to the south western part of the county. PES is requesting letters of support from members of the community in the south western portion of the county and can be emailed or mailed to PES (128 S. First St. Pulaski, TN 38478). The letters need to state problems that are created by a lack of internet and how high speed fiber internet can improve these situations.

Policy Updates

The board approved policy updates including Policy 3-30 regarding dress code.

Newton explained PES had an internal memo on dress code but had not had an official policy until now.

Board member Pat Ford noted some of the wording in the policy could be potentially subjective, leading to a discussion on who would be the determining body on the matter.

It was decided the human resources department and CEO would make such determinations, and the policy was approved with an effective date of Sept. 1.

PES Energize wants to be able to provide fiber broadband service to the community and as a part of their strategy to do so, the Aid-to-Construction program was re-opened this past month. Aid-to-Construction is for those individuals and groups that would like to pay for fiber construction to their homes and businesses rather than wait for grant monies that may or may not be awarded.

“We have had a great response to opening up the program, and we are excited to see interest from all over the county,” Chief Information Officer Garret Laarman said. “Fiber construction can become very costly, therefore we would like to encourage those Giles County citizens who are seriously considering a paid-for fiber build to band together within their neighborhoods and select a spokesperson for these projects. I can provide information and a template to gather the information needed to the spokesperson. There are many factors considered in determining the cost per home for fiber, but the key factor in driving the price down is the total amount of homes passed that are willing to contribute to the fund.”

Finally, the board approved a policy to give employees who receive a COVID-19 vaccination four hours of paid time off (PTO) per shot.

Discussion took place over whether the board should give eight hours total PTO for receiving a full vaccination or four hours off for each shot. Another caveat was whether those who had already received the shot should be retroactively awarded the PTO even if they had not been employed by PES at the time of their vaccination.

It was determined that those who had already received the shot, including the employees who had not been with PES at the time of vaccination, should receive the PTO as well with future hires not receiving the PTO going forward. In addition, the board clarified that any employees who miss work due to side effects resulting from the vaccination can use sick days for the duration of their symptoms. As of the July 27 meeting, it was believed 11-of-62 full-time employees had received the vaccination.

Financial Reports

The board approved the financial reports for the month of June, the final month of the 2020-21 fiscal year.

In the electric division, PES was not only favorable to the budget in seven of eight categories for the month but also for the year.

The lone category unfavorable to the budget for the year was revenue with a negative variation of $1,151,580, which was offset by favorable marks in purchase power with a variation of $2,067,783.

The electric division’s margin was nearly 11 percent favorable to the budget with a variation of $1,415,671 for the year. Reinvested earnings were favorable to the budget by more than 190 percent with a $4,569,396 variation for the year.

In the broadband division, six out of seven categories were favorable to the budget for the month of June with all seven categories favorable for the year.

Revenue came in at $3,762,807 for the year, which was more than $75,000 favorable to the budget. Margin was 4.7 percent favorable to the budget for the year with a variation of more than $87,000. Capital funds were nearly 71 percent favorable to the budget with a variation of $117,849.

In other business, the board:

• Approved the requisition of meters from Tantalus and Wesco.

• Approved the requisition of fiber parts from various suppliers.

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