Members of the public and county officials want to expand the proposed zone meant to encourage more broadband development in rural areas of Monroe.

The Monroe County Board of Commissioners is considering creating an Infrastructure Development Zone to incentivize broadband development in northern Monroe County.

Monroe County Attorney Jeff Cockerill said state law allows the county commissioners to approve a personal property tax exemption to encourage certain types of utility investment within a designated Infrastructure Development Zone. Personal property in taxation terms refers to the equipment that businesses use to produce income, according to the Indiana Department of Local Government and Finance website.

Speaking during a public hearing on the proposal on Wednesday, Monroe County Councilman Geoff McKim said the commissioners’ willingness to create this zone demonstrates a community commitment to increasing the accessibility of broadband in rural areas. However, while supportive, he would like to see the commissioners expand the current zone to include more underserved and unserved areas of the county.

Executive Vice President of Smithville Communications Cullen McCarty said his company too supports creating the Infrastructure Development Zone, but wants to see it expanded. He offered to sit down with the commissioners during a work session to share more about where those areas might be, based on data the company collected.

“We’ve got these pockets that we need to hit,” McCarty said.

Cockerill said the map presented should be considered as Phase 1 of what the commissioners hope to do regarding incentivizing broadband development. He said that area includes about 4,500 homes. He added the commissioners want to be sensitive to areas where infrastructure is already in place and ensure that the incentive being offered actually goes to help areas that need this infrastructure.
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