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Through partnerships, WRECC expanding broadband reach

Federal funding is helping with the expensive but much-needed process of increasing high-speed internet access in Warren and surrounding counties, with Warren Rural Electric Cooperative and two partner internet providers announcing last week that they are receiving about $2.3 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

That money will be used to help WRECC and partners North Central Telephone Cooperative of Lafayette, Tenn., and the Franklin Electric Plant Board reach 13,600 potential new customers in Warren, Simpson, Grayson and Edmonson counties who don’t now have access to high-speed internet.

WRECC and NCTC, which in 2019 started a partnership to bring broadband internet service to 800 residences in southeast Warren County, won a bid for RDOF funding to provide service in areas of east Warren County, across Grayson County, and some of Edmonson County.

“Providing high-speed internet in rural areas has been and continues to be an important issue nationwide,” said Dewayne McDonald, president and CEO of WRECC. “Fortunately, we have been able to develop a successful model with NCTC. Thanks to the RDOF funds, we are able to move more rapidly than we expected, and we’re delighted to be able to start our expansion into other parts of the Warren RECC territory immediately.”

Similarly, WRECC’s partnership with Franklin EPB continues a pilot project that started in 2019 and is bringing high-speed internet to 550 WRECC members in northeast Simpson County and a small group of members on the southeast side of Franklin.

The RDOF assistance allows the two companies to expand their collaboration to additional areas of the Warren RECC service territory in Simpson County and add about 250 members eligible to receive the high-speed service.

WRECC’s partnership with NCTC has the potential to reach thousands of new broadband customers and cover much of Grayson County.

“For years, we have struggled with high-speed internet and wireless coverage,” said Grayson County Judge-Executive Kevin Henderson. “We’ve developed a plan to cover as many Grayson County residents as possible.

“We’re looking forward to this project getting started.”

With the RDOF money in place, WRECC and NCTC are expected to move quickly.

According to a news release, the companies are currently installing in the Warren County expansion area and expect to be ready to sign up Grayson County members for service by the third quarter of 2021.

Plans for expansion in Edmonson County will be announced as they are developed, the news release said. NCTC will contact residents as soon as service is available.

Although the RDOF funding will allow WRECC to reach a broad area, the cooperative didn’t win all the areas it was bidding for in the FCC auction.

Charter Communications, which operates in Warren County as Spectrum cable television, phone and internet service provider, is using $1.2 million in RDOF money to expand its broadband service in the county.

Spectrum’s current service area is limited largely to the urbanized part of the county. The expansion will reach about 1,588 more homes in rural areas.

Charter Senior Director of Government Affairs Jason Keller gave in February a presentation about the high-speed internet expansion to Warren Fiscal Court. His presentation included a map that showed service being extended to the Anna community and areas around Bristow, Hadley and Woodburn.

“For the areas we didn’t win,” McDonald said in a news release, “we hope the companies that did win them will live up to their commitment to serve our members with the same quality and service offered by Warren RECC and NCTC.”

NCTC, which signed in 2017 a franchise agreement to provide internet and cable television service in Warren County, began by running connections to the Drakes Ridge subdivision and other areas along the Scottsville Road corridor. In order to provide service to the rural areas of the Alvaton and Boyce communities included in the 2019 partnership, NCTC piggybacked off fiber-optic cable laid by WRECC.

The partnership, which has received a $300,000 boost from Warren Fiscal Court, has been successful, according to WRECC Senior Director of Communications and Public Relations Kim Phelps.

“We have reached over 1,700 of our members, and that number increases each day,” Phelps said in an email.

Phelps said more than 50% of residents eligible for the service have been taking it so far.

“That is a good take rate and occurs almost instantly as we make the service available to our members,” she said. “The take rate in areas where the service has been available continues to rise as members get out of contracts for DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) or wireless services that do not provide adequate internet speeds.”

Both NCTC and Spectrum are offering speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second, or gigabit service.


News
Becky Brooks Vintage opening on downtown square

When Amber Brooks goes retro, she goes big.

Not only is the Bowling Green native jumping headfirst into the vintage clothing trend, she’s doing it by opening her own store in what is itself a vintage location.

Brooks and longtime friend Brandy Tucker on Tuesday were preparing their inventory and sprucing up the new quarters for their business at 432 E. Main Ave., a building more than a century old that looks out on Bowling Green’s Fountain Square Park.

Called the Princess Building because it housed the Princess Theater in the early part of the last century, the building now owned by Bobby Rabold is home to Mary Jane’s Chocolates.

Beginning Friday, that historic space next to Mary Jane’s will be home to what Brooks is calling Becky Brooks Vintage, a retail outlet specializing in clothing, accessories and jewelry that mostly come from the late 20th century.

A vintage clothing fan and collector for years, Brooks on Tuesday was a walking advertisement for the type of inventory her store will carry.

Dressed in 1970s jeans, a 1980s blouse and “thrifted” shoes she guessed dated to the 1990s, Brooks joked: “I’m probably representing four different decades.”

As will her store, a brick-and-mortar incarnation of a passion that Brooks has had nearly since she graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2009.

Moving first to Atlanta and later to New York City, Brooks recalls that she started “picking,” or looking for deals on vintage clothing in thrift stores, yard sales and other outlets.

Her love of such attire grew while in the Big Apple, where she witnessed the nascent retro trend while working at the upscale Jean-Georges restaurant.

“In New York you’re one person in a big mass of people,” said Brooks, a 2005 Warren East High School graduate. “You’re looking for something to set yourself apart.”

For Brooks, setting herself apart has also meant joining a growing trend in fashion driven by environmental consciousness as much as by thriftiness.

According to the 2020 Resale Report compiled by the ThredUp.com website devoted to trends in clothing, the U.S. secondhand clothing market is projected to more than triple in value in the next 10 years.

In 2019, that report said, secondhand clothing expanded 21 times faster than conventional retail apparel did.

That’s not news to Brooks, who has shopped for vintage clothing in New York, Atlanta, Nashville and even on her honeymoon in Belize.

She began selling vintage clothing online through social media and her Etsy website five years ago and quickly saw how popular it was.

“It was growing year after year,” Brooks said of her online sales. “Even with college-age kids, vintage and retro clothing is trending right now. There’s a shift because people want uniqueness and a little more character.”

After seeing a 200% year-over-year increase in her sales last year, Brooks knew it was time to try a storefront location.

“This is a little bit of a risk,” Brooks admitted. “Selling online has been my bread and butter. Brandy and I talked about it and thought it would be nice to have a shop.

“We saw this space right after Christmas and liked it. The wheels started moving quickly from there.”

Now, with help from Tucker’s merchandising and sewing skills, Brooks has opened a shop whose name pays homage to her mother and has stocked it with clothes from nearly every decade since the 1950s along with handbags, shoes and even some old photos.

“The dream is hers,” said Tucker, who has been friends with Brooks since middle school. “To have a storefront in downtown I think will be really fun.”

“I think this is a good time to try this,” Brooks said. “People are looking to support local businesses.”

Brooks is starting slowly, opening the store on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from noon until 6 p.m.

More information about the types of items carried by Becky Brooks Vintage can be found at the etsy.com/shop/BeckyBrooksVintage website.


News
T.J. Samson honored as among nation's best

GLASGOW – T.J. Samson Community Hospital has been named one of the top 100 rural and community hospitals in the United States by the Chartis Center for Rural Health.

T.J. Samson is also the only hospital in Kentucky to be named to the list.

“This is the first time that we have gotten this,” said Stacey Biggs, executive vice president for marketing, planning and development for T.J. Regional Health. “Their ranking was taken strictly from the data and analytics that they pulled from various sources. This is the first time for us, so we were excited.”

The Chartis Center for Rural Health releases a list of the top 100 rural and community hospitals in the nation each year.

Biggs explained that the Chartis Center for Rural Health is a national health care advisory firm that does a lot of research, data mining and analytics, as well as consulting, strategy and planning for health care organizations.

“Of course they have a particular focus on rural health care organizations, so they really advocate for rural health,” she said.

Biggs said T.J. Samson was weighed on various quality measures in regard to patient care when being considered for the designation.

“All of the measures that are related to quality all come down to the level of patient care. But they are looking at several different things. They are looking at market share, both inpatient and outpatient ... patient outcomes, which obviously everybody wants the best patient outcomes all the time. And then patient perspective.”

T.J. Samson patients are surveyed frequently so hospital officials can get a perspective on the level of care the patients received during their visit, she said.

Financial stability is also part of the criteria for the ranking.

“We are certainly a financially sound organization so that played into that as well,” Biggs said.

The list of the top 100 rural and community hospitals in the nation was published on the Beckers Hospital Review website.

“Beckers is a well-respected health care communication media that is very specific to health care and hospitals. To be mentioned in Beckers is a pretty big thing, too, so we were glad that they reported on it,” she said.

To celebrate, news of the designation was published in the hospital employees’ newsletter and shared via social media. Hospital employees were also asked to share it on personal social media accounts.

“... For us it’s really a point of pride. It’s very humbling to be included in that list, certainly. I don’t know if you can be humble and very proud at the same time, but that’s kind of the way we feel about it to be honest,” Biggs said. “This is something we want folks to know about it because it is something to be proud of.”


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