A W.Va. router was sent to Ohio
The state shipped a $22,600 router to the Region 11 Planning and Development Council last year, but later forced the agency to surrender the device, records show
The reason: Region 11's office isn't in West Virginia. It's in Ohio.
For nearly two years, the Region 11 Council, which serves Brooke and Hancock counties, was on the state's list of public agencies scheduled to receive a router and fiber. The council listed a post office box address in Weirton. The Office of Technology shipped a $22,600 router to the agency.
But the council's office wasn't in Weirton, state officials discovered. The agency operates out of Steubenville, Ohio.
The Region 11 Council -- now known as the Brooke, Hancock, Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission -- serves Jefferson County, Ohio.
After West Virginia officials realized they had sent a router to Ohio, they dispatched an Office of Technology technician to Steubenville to get the device and return it to Charleston last winter.
State officials also scrapped plans to run fiber to Region 11's Ohio office. The economic development agency has since been officially removed from West Virginia's list of public agencies scheduled to benefit from the federal stimulus project. It's the only regional planning council that won't get a router and fiber.
"The footprint for the grant is the state of West Virginia," said Gianato, who heads the state's broadband grant implementation team. "It had to be within the borders of West Virginia. We had to get that router back in our possession."
Region 11 executive director John Brown did not return several phone calls seeking comment last week.
Gianato said the state would reassign Region 11's router to another public agency.
'This is such a waste of funds'
So what does a regional planning agency do with a $22,600 router it doesn't want?
"I asked if I could sell it," said Wolfe, the Region 6 executive, who called the state technology office about the unused, oversized router. "They said, 'No. It's the property of the state of West Virginia.' "
Region 6 has seven employees, seven computers. The agency's existing router cost $200.
"They could have gotten us a $200 router, and we would have been perfectly happy," Wolfe said.
The agency pays $82.30 a month for broadband. Using the office's new fiber connection could cost five times as much, Wolfe said.
"They say we'll be a lot faster, but we're not having any problems now," she said. "We don't need anything faster."
Region 6 employees have yet to remove the router from the cardboard box it was shipped in. They have no plans to set it up.
"This thing is huge," Wolfe said. "This router is tremendous. It could do a giant factory."
State officials should have consulted with the planning councils, asked whether they needed routers and fiber connections, she said. Instead, the devices wound up on the agencies' doorsteps without explanation or instructions.
A one-page letter, tucked in the router box, notified public agencies that they had been selected as "anchor tenants" and would receive broadband through a fiber cable. But the form letter mentions nothing about the router.
"Whoever is behind this, they should be penalized," Wolfe said. "They should be reprimanded. They don't know what they're doing.
"We're fighting every day for money and grants to bring water and sewer to places, and they go out and spend $22,000 on giant routers. This is such a waste of funds."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.
Coming Monday: The federal stimulus paid to bring high-speed fiber to an empty building in Cabell County.