BUNNELL – The upcoming construction project of the new Flagler County Public Library branch has landed a major new cash assist – the state government will be providing $4 million in grant funds as part of a larger funding initiative.
The selection of the library project, made by Governor Ron DeSantis, as one aspect of a $223 million allocation largely meant to expand broadband access in Florida. $135 million of that total is from the state’s Broadband Opportunity Program, with another $86 million coming from the federal Multipurpose Community Facilities Program. “We are thrilled by this announcement,” said County Administrator Heidi Petito. “This is huge for Flagler County. We are extremely grateful to have been awarded this money by Governor DeSantis.”
The library project was chosen by the state as it will be a new source of broadband access for residents, and it will also be one of the county’s most useful multi-use facilities once built. The Federal Communications Commission also selected the project in line with new rules combating the expansion of broadband in such a way that discriminates based on income level or social demographic.
Spearheading the application process for this batch of grant money was Holly Albanese, the Chief of Special Projects for Flagler County and the Library Director. Albanese heard about the grant back in June of last year from State Librarian Amy Johnson, and worked for four months to prepare an application. “It was a very complex grant with lots of requirements,” Albanese said of the process. “It is the most difficult grant application I have submitted. […] We revised the scope of the project from just a library to a library, a Health and Human Services Department, and a community room. It appears that was a good decision because it made us eligible for these funds. This announcement made my day. It’s a big win for our community.”
The genesis of the library’s expansion dates back multiple years, with the first major step coming when Albanese presented the proposal to the Board of County Commissioners. Sitting Commission Chair Andy Dance was a proponent of the idea to integrate the Health and Human Services Department and the community room, and the plan has gone forth with support from the country government ever since. The $4 million state grant will be combined with $9.6 million in earmarked taxpayer funds, $1 million in revenue from library-issued passports, and $500,000 from another state grant that was secured last year.
“Connecting Florida’s small and rural communities to broadband internet will help them find jobs, access education resources and expand their businesses,” Governor Ron DeSantis said as part of his announcement. “We will continue to make investments in broadband internet that support long-term growth for our communities, without federally imposed strings attached.”