The Pierce County Council, at its March 16 regular meeting, took a major step forward in improving broadband infrastructure in the county with the unanimous approval of an ordinance regarding the design, siting and permitting of wireless facilities.
The passage of Ordinance No. 2021-9s follows up on the broadband access and speed study completed in April 2019 that focused on identifying strategies for increasing broadband access and speed across the county, developing an inventory of what broadband infrastructure currently exists and exploring potential public investments and regulatory reforms that would increase and attract private broadband infrastructure development.
In short, the study found that rural areas in Pierce County lag in terms of broadband access compared with urban areas, a fact that became more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year that saw government shut down large swaths of the economy to combat the coronavirus.
“I think the last year has shown us, if anything, that both our wireless and our wire facilities are essential services at this point,” Council Chair Derek Young said. “It’s difficult to participate in the modern economy without quality access to them, and, unfortunately, we’ve got big spots in Pierce County where that struggles. So, this is an effort to basically incent more development rollout, but we’ll also need to do some investment on our side, as well.”
COVID-19 reared its head again in the form of the council’s unanimous passage of a resolution expressing continued support for the hard-hit restaurant industry.
“We are all too familiar with challenges our restaurant industry has faced over the last year, and we know unfortunately that some have not survived this time period,” resolution sponsor Councilmember Hans Zeiger said.
Resolution R2021-26, in addition to articulating backing for the restaurant industry in navigating COVID-19 regulations, customer demands and market forces, also requests the Planning and Public Works Department to submit a written report on easing regulatory barriers to the chair of the Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee no later than April 8.
In other business, the council unanimously passed Proposal No. 2021-10, an ordinance prohibiting the use of compression brakes along a segment of Canyon Road East in the Midland/Waller/Summit area and requesting the postage of appropriate signage. The resolution was passed at the behest of constituents who complained about the loud rapping sound caused by compression breaking, which uses the engine to slow down and stop.
Also passed unanimously was Proposal No. R2021-9, authorizing the county executive to enter into an interlocal agreement between the Pierce County Flood Control Zone District so the county can accept an economic stimulus grant in the amount of $298,000 for the construction of the Huge Creek Culvert Replacement Project to provide fish passage to more than 10 miles of habitat upstream.
The council approved — again, unanimously — a number of appointments and reappointments to various commissions. Four existing commissioners were reappointed to the Pierce County Tourism Promotion Area Hotel Commission: Becky Newton, Ingram Drueding, Brandy Frederich and Bleu Braaten. Five new commissioners were also appointed: Melissa Wheatley, Naveem Parmar, Kayla Keuhne, Amilyn Escude and Trevor Sutton. Five new members were confirmed to the Pierce County Solid Waste Advisory Committee: David Powers, Chris Giraldes, Ellen Knowlen, Aminah Othman and David Artis.
Finally, all seven council members passed a resolution, along with the county executive, that proclaimed the week of March 15-21, 2021, as “Volunteer Recognition Week” in Pierce County.
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