CLARION - Clarion County continues to move forward with a plan to develop broadband capabilities in the county as the board of commissioners recently agreed to obtain drill core samples at sites where communications are planned.

The samples will be analyzed to determine soil compaction for a new 9-1-1/broadband tower.

The county recently purchased the former Sorce warehouse in Paint Township for $670,000. The 50,000 square-feet building will be converted into the county's new 9-1-1 and emergency management services center.

The new tower will be key link in the county's plan to eliminate gaps in 9-1-1 coverage and provide broadband capabilities to county residents.

A new tower is currently being erected in Leeper. The total cost of the project of that project is $313,767.

The county is using part of the $3 million federal CARES Act grant for the work on the emergency system. Under the provisions of the act improvements to a broadband system are allowable.

Portions of the cost of the Sorce building purchase and the tower construction are allowed under the grant.

Commissioner Ted Tharan explained the COVID pandemic caused a greater reliance on the system from new users including telemedicine, distance learning and other users who are now working remotely.

The projects must be completed by Dec. 31 under the current guidelines.

Tharan said U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-15) is working to have the deadline changed.

"Rushing these projects will only lead to waste," said Tharan.

During his recent visit to Jefferson County U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R) said the Senate was also working to push back the deadline.

The commissioners also approved agreements in Porter Township and Brady Township to allow the county to do additional core samples for the construction of new 9-1-1 towers.

Grant would boost trail tunnel effort

Earlier this year the Valley Land Trust and the Armstrong Trails to Trails combined to form the Armstrong Trails but the change has not affected the goals of the organization.

One of those goals is the opening of the East Brady tunnel.

On Sept. 9, the Clarion County commissioners adopted a resolution seeking a Multimodal Transportation Fund grant of $998,650 from the Commonwealth Financing Authority to be used for the restoration of the tunnel.

Chris Zeigler, executive director of Armstrong Trails, said the group is a "good way to getting the tunnel open."

The organization has leveraged several grants including the combination of $1.3 million from DCNR and Pennvest for Phase One of the project. That part of the project included a liner for the northern section of the tunnel.

The 36-mile long Armstrong Trails is located on the former Allegheny Valley Railroad line along the eastern bank of the Allegheny River in Armstrong and Clarion counties.

Thirty miles of the trail, from Rosston to East Brady, is a crushed limestone surface with paved sections in Ford City and Kittanning.

The tunnel was originally built because the old railroad line ran next to the Allegheny River and was subject to landslides.

The construction of the tunnel shaved 12 miles off the river routs when it was opened in 1915.

The total cost of the project would is expected to cost $7 million to $10 million and take at least four years to complete.