Technology Works! was created in 2010 through a Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program grant received by Mountain Lakes Medical Center. The grant is designed to help increase Internet accessibility throughout the community, primarily targeting under-served groups
“We have some very desperate families here, and I think instead of removing resources we do everything we can to keep them going,” said Lisa Prickett, former facilitator at Technology Works!. “I’m very disappointed that it wasn’t cared for.”
Funds from the BTOP grant were used to create two public computer labs that fell under the Technology Works! umbrella: one located in the Rabun County Employment Center and the other in the Amara Center on the MLMC campus. Funds were also used to acquire equipment necessary for teleconferencing in the auditorium of the Amara Center and in classrooms at both locations.
According to the grant application, MLMC partnered with the Rabun County Development Authority, North Georgia Technical College and the Rabun County Board of Commissioners to obtain the grant, with the responsibilities of each organization clearly defined while funding lasted.
Section C of the grant application states that MLMC would assume responsibility for the computer lab located within its facility while the development authority would manage the downtown location. The county paid for renovations to the former hospital and provided furniture for the computer lab and classroom. North Georgia Tech made a commitment to provide distance learning programs at the employment center.
Kim Ingram, grant facilitator, highlighted the section of the application relating to sustainability following the end-of-grant funding, specifically a paragraph that states MLMC and the development authority would continue funding for the project coordinator and the facilitator. With the closing, two full and two part time jobs were lost.
“We were throwing all kinds of options on the table to keep things open,” said Ray Coulombe, executive director of the development authority. “We had agreed then to meet, and we met a couple times and we never met again.”
Coulombe and other members of the development authority indicated that the downtown computer lab closed because arrangements could not be made to find a suitable overseer. He said he had presented options such as reducing center hours, moving the computer lab to Rabun County Library and using a volunteer staff.
“The job wasn’t a training job, it was an open the doors, let people in, let people out, send out promotional material kind of job,” said authority member Leckie Stack. “It wasn’t somebody that had to have computer skills.”
In August, Prickett spoke to commissioners asking for additional funding for the computer lab. However, this came one month after the county’s budget for the year had been approved.
County Administrator Jim Bleckley said no formal budget requests had been made for county funds to allow the computer lab to continue operating.
“The only time the county had mentioned funding (the computer lab) was at the board of commissioners meeting,” he said. “There was no plan of continuation.”
Since Friday, the majority of equipment used at the computer lab has been taken to the Technology Works! location at the Amara Center. Ingram said equipment purchased with BTOP funds and used by North Georgia Tech would remain at the employment center and would be leased by the college.
Technology Works! at the Amara Center has assumed the same hours as the former downtown location.
More information can be found at www.theamaracenter.com.