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FEMA representatives will be visiting the state this week

Last week was a difficult week throughout our area. Our roads and electric services and damage to trees in the area have been tremendous. There are people, especially from out of state, traveling about offering to do tree trimming. Some are good, legitimate services, but many are scams and are overcharging. It is better to get some references and contact a couple of services for estimates. I know many neighbors are pitching in to help neighbors who cannot take care of the trees and yard issues and I commend all those willing to lend a hand. Also, thank all of the road crews both state and local and the power company employees, for their long hours of service. FEMA representatives will be visiting the state this week. They will put together data showing the possible financial impact from the snow and ice in the hardest hit areas. Then that information will be given to the Governor. He will then decide if the damage amounts are high enough to ask for financial assistance from FEMA.

The lottery commission has been looking at electronic bingo games, which would enable players to watch winning numbers from frequent drawings on television screens in bars and restaurants. Governor Beebe and many legislators oppose the electronic bingo. He said he does not believe voters contemplated such a game when they approved Amendment 87.

The Arkansas Highway Commission last week awarded contracts totaling $33.3 million on two more projects under the state’s $1.2 billion interstate repair program. One of the projects in on the eastern side of the state and the second project will widen an interchange on interstate 540 in Washington County.

Last week, a panel of civic leaders, educators and public officials completed a study and sent it to the governor with their recommendations for efficiently bringing enhanced broadband to rural schools. They made four major recommendations. First, all schools should be connected to a much improved fiber optic network. Second, management of the statewide network should be centralized. Third, schools should have a minimum broadband capacity of 100 megabits per second for each 1,000 students and finally, that a private-public partnership be charged with accomplishing the goal of improved internet access in rural Arkansas. One big issue that needs to be resolved is the financing. Every semester brings a greater demand for distance learning, video streaming, digital technology and faster telecommunications. Also, more standardized tests are being conducted and scored using information technology. The state is getting bids from internet service providers and then policy makers will begin discussing the potential costs of expanding broadband capabilities.

If you would like to contact me, please email me at bruce.holland@senate.ar.gov or call the office at 479-650-1884 or write me at P.O. Box 2387 Greenwood, AR. 72936.

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