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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — Monroe County residents can get two free at-home COVID-19 tests per person from the Monroe County Health Department or the Monroe County Public Health Clinic.

The tests will be available from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays at the department, 119 W. Seventh St.

The tests also will be available from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday at Monroe County Public Health Clinic, 333 E. Miller Drive, through June. The clinic’s hours will change in July. It’ll be open until 6 p.m. Mondays, and from 8-11 a.m. every second Saturday of the month. The public health clinic is a partnership between the health department and Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital.

Free at-home COVID-19 tests also will be distributed to local agencies and organizations that serve high-risk and high-need clients.

The health department and the health clinic received 20,000 at-home COVID-19 tests from the Indiana Department of Health in late May.

Questions? Contact the Monroe County Health Department COVID Hotline at 812-349-2997 or the Monroe County Public Health Clinic at 812-353-3244.

This story was updated with information provided Monday by Monroe County Health Department to correct the time that the Monroe County Public Health Clinic will close.

ELLETTSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Ellettsville-based Smithville is partnering with the Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC on an effort to increase rural broadband access. The companies say the first initiative of the partnership will break ground in January with the goal of bringing high-speed fiber connectivity to more than 800 homes in rural Monroe County.

Smithville says the two-year project will initially focus on building residential fiber connectivity to about 280 homes. Then, work in additional areas is expected to begin later in 2021 with completion of the full project anticipated to occur by the end of 2022.

“Smithville currently has fiber and legacy service customers in Greene and Monroe Counties and other areas served by UDWI, so combining strategic resources in a limited partnership will bring benefits to present and future customers and communities served by both,” Darby McCarty, chief executive officer of Smithville, said in a news release. “Many of these areas have high construction costs, so this partnership will help lower costs and accelerate fiber access without impacting either of our customer bases.”

Doug Childs, CEO of the UDWI, says the partnership will allow the co-op to continue its focus on capital improvements and increased vegetation management to improve service reliability to customers. 

Smithville says its engineering teams are completing plans for the Monroe County project. Both Smithville and the UDWI say they are considering additional efforts as well.

“This initial project will serve as the foundation for additional projects in the future,” said Cullen McCarty, executive vice president of Smithville. “The Monroe County project is just the beginning.”

ELLETTSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Officials from Ellettsville-based Smithville are Thursday celebrating the completion of a $2.7 million rural fiber internet project in Tipton and Howard counties. The company says the project, which was funded in part by the state’s Next Level Connections Broadband Grant program, will provide, high-speed, fiber-based internet for hundreds of homes. 

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Host Gerry Dick, Smithville President Paul Quick said the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for high-speed broadband internet, particularly in rural areas.

“If you have a great broadband product at your home or your business, you really appreciate it right now,” said Quick. “But for those people who have mediocre broadband experiences, they could be in the middle of a meeting where they’re working remotely and their whole system freezes up because they don’t have a quality product. I think that COVID has really heightened our awareness to everyone needs great internet in our communities.”

As part of the project, Smithville installed 36 miles of new fiber optics and upgraded its network equipment. Additionally, the company upgraded 117 existing copper-based service customers to fiber connectivity.

Smithville officials will be joined by Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch and other state and local officials to mark the project’s completion at the Baird Family Farm in Tipton County. The event “lit up” the first of more than 500 homes that will receive the upgraded service.

“This type of project achieves high-speed rural fiber connectivity to underserved areas of Indiana, bringing new advantages and possibilities to Hoosiers,” Crouch said in a news release. “Smithville’s investment and vision help fulfill what Gov. Eric Holcomb and the state supports to connect Hoosiers through the Indiana Next Level Connections Broadband program.”

Smithville says it will immediately begin adding more than 160 new customers who have already signed up for the new fiber service.

You can see more of the interview with Paul Quick on this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.

ELLETTSVILLE and MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Construction has begun on a high-speed internet fiber project that will serve as many as 3,400 rural residents and businesses in Monroe and Owen Counties when completed in 2023. Ellettsville-based Smithville and rural electric co-op SCI REMC say construction is underway for the first 350 residents and businesses.

The partners say, when completed, the project will deliver high-speed, reliable fiber-based internet service to residents and businesses in common service areas around Ellettsville, Lake Monroe, and Gosport.

“This joint project will help both companies move forward in closing the digital divide in rural areas by providing high-speed, highly reliable fiber-based internet connectivity,” said Darby McCarty, chairman and chief executive officer of Smithville Communications.

Smithville and SCI REMC say customers living in the first phase area, between Spencer and Gosport, can expect to have improved internet service by the end of the year.

The partnership says the fiber service will also replace copper-based services currently being used.

“By working with Smithville, we are able to meet our electric smart grid needs and ensure businesses and residents have access to world-class high-speed internet in the most expeditious, fiscally responsible way possible,” said Tanneberger.

James Tanneberger, chief executive officer of SCI REMC, said customers will be able to choose service from either Smithville or SCI REMC when the fiber network is built and active.