Hilliard using CARES Act money to help students and seniors

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Dalandrea Whiteside, operations supervisor for SHARE Mobility, drives one of the vehicles in the organization's fleet outside the Phyllis A. Ernst Senior Center in Hilliard. Hilliard is using CARES Act money for a pilot program with SHARE Mobility.

Hilliard is putting the more than $2.2 million it recently received in federal funding to use in multiple ways, including by launching a pilot program to provide public transportation to seniors and a plan to connect 11 Hilliard City Schools buildings to the city’s fiber-optics network.

The money is from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, a $2.2 trillion economic-stimulus package enacted by the federal government in March in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Hilliard City Council on Nov. 9 authorized City Manager Michelle Crandall to contract with Thayer Power & Communication to extend the city’s fiber network to 11 school buildings.

The legislation includes a not-to-exceed amount of $1 million, but Duane Powell, director of information technology for Hilliard, estimated the project’s cost at about almost $743,000.

The project calls for extending the city’s fiber network to 11 school buildings and placing transmission radios on the roof of each building. Residential receivers would be installed at qualifying student locations, according to the executive summary for the legislation.

The schools are Avery, Beacon, Crossing and Scioto Darby elementary schools, Station and Tharp sixth-grade Schools, Memorial, Heritage and Weaver middle schools and Darby and Davidson high schools, said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.

The sites are meant to maximize signal coverage in the city rather than providing service to particular school buildings, Ball said.

The service is for "students impacted by the digital divide,” a term used to describe students with limited access to reliable internet while being required to learn remotely during the pandemic, the executive summary said.

The goal is to provide free or reduced-cost internet access to at least 100 but not more than 300 digital-divide households, according to the executive summary.

"We are excited to be a part of this and know this will help many families in our district," said Stacie Raterman, director of communications for Hilliard City Schools.

Another use of CARES Act money involved Hilliard setting aside $40,000 to contract with SHARE Mobility to provide free transportation services for Hilliard residents age 55 and over.

The actual cost will be based on ridership, Ball said.

The two-month pilot program called Hilliard Express began Nov. 2.

“The goal (of Hilliard Express) is to improve community access, enhance quality of life, and provide opportunities for social interaction for the older members of our community,” said Crandall, who is familiar with SHARE Mobility because it provided services to the Dublin while she was assistant city manager there.

“(Crandall) was instrumental in us coming to Hilliard,” said Michael Martens, chief growth officer for SHARE Mobility.

“If this pilot project is a success the Hilliard Express might become a permanent service to offer our seniors all the great things that Hilliard has to offer,” Crandall said.

Among the riders using Hilliard Express is 92-year-old Rose Salimando, who lives at the Stone Oak Retirement Community on Trueman Boulevard.

“It’s a blessing for people like me,” said Salimando, who used the service to ride to Target and Kohl’s stores.

The service is available by calling 833-SHARE-33, booking online at sharemobility.com/rider or emailing dispatch@ridewithshare.com.

The service is provided from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. It is available to residents in the city limits and transports only within the city limits.

Many other Hilliard nonprofit organizations and agencies also benefited from CARES Act funding, including the Hilliard United Methodist Church Preschool ($7,589); Patches of Light ($30,000); the Hilliard Food Pantry ($20,119); Dot’s Tots Foundation ($22,292); SON Ministries ($25,000); the First Baptist Church of Hilliard ($25,000); the Hilliard Kiwanis Club ($10,000); and St. Brendan the Navigator Catholic Church ($10,000).

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo