EBENSBURG - County emergency services will soon be improving for residents from Gallitzin to Ashville to Dean, thanks to a federal grant and loan to erect a communications tower along the Route 53 corridor.
County commissioners announced at an evening meeting Thursday that they will be accepting a $30,400 grant and five-year, $49,900 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service to be used for communications improvements.
The county will provide $6,800 in matching funds.
Emergency Services Executive Director Ron Springer said the tower will help close a "longstanding gap" in the corridor, he said, and commended the county for its team effort in working to expand communications in the county's more rural areas.
President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said the county became eligible for such grants by discontinuing a countywide wireless Internet service.
Because construction is heavily weather-dependent, and the county is still working through the paperwork, officials said residents shouldn't expect to see
the tower go up before summer.
And while it won't solve all communications problems in the area, it will be a major step forward for a region with mountainous topography, Commissioner Mark Wissinger said.
"It's a tough area to cover out there," he added.