GREENWOOD TWP- The Greenwood Town Board heard an earful, at their Sept. 10 meeting, from a group of residents who want the township to become more active in the search for more reliable phone service …
GREENWOOD TWP- The Greenwood Town Board heard an earful, at their Sept. 10 meeting, from a group of residents who want the township to become more active in the search for more reliable phone service and high-speed internet. Most township residents’ only option for service is through Frontier Communications, which has been slow and unreliable for many users.
This was after the supervisors once again refused to grant a second to a motion by Supervisor Mike Ralston to put in an application for the Blandin Broadband program to fund a community computer and printer at the town hall. Ralston said he just wanted to get a vote on the record, even if the issue was voted down. “I think everybody needs a reason as to why we aren’t going to proceed,” he said.
This issue is separate from the Broadband Feasibility Study, which the town board is on record as financially supporting.
But a group of Greenwood community members attending the meeting had a bit more to say on the topic of both slow internet and unreliable telephone service.
“This is the first time I’ve been to a town board meeting,” said Louise Gately. “We’ve owned a summer place in Greenwood for 51 years.” Gately said her husband cannot reliably work from their cabin.
“We are not operating in the 21st century,” she said. Two of her grown children would like to be able to spend more time on Vermilion in the summer, and could work remotely, but both require reliable internet and sufficient speed. The problem, she noted, is three-fold: cell phone reception, internet connectivity, and regular land-line telephone service.
Repair service from Frontier has been horrible this year, she noted, with waits up to three weeks.
“In previous years they would come right away,” she said.
“What I ask is that you assure that every resident have adequate, consistent, 21st-century communications,” she said. “Our elected officials need to take the lead. To accept the offer from Blandin shows residents that the township is willing to bring 21st-century communications to Greenwood. The leaders of our community need to do more.”
John Bassing, who has been a leader on the area broadband committee told the board the IRRR had just approved over $1 million in funding for area broadband projects, for communities that have been part of the broadband initiative centered in the Cook area. These projects also qualified for statewide Border to Border grant funding. These grants, he noted, will enable low-cost installation of broadband speed internet in rural areas.
“We need to get on board to do this,” he said. “We need to do everything we can. We can get in on this funding next year.”
Significant portions of Greenwood already have fiber optic cable installed along roads, but nothing has been done to hook up individual businesses or homes.
Mike Hatlestad expressed his frustration also.
“I’ve sat through three meetings,” he said, “and you still haven’t come to a decision on the Blandin grant. You have to move on.”
Hatlestad stressed the safety issue created by poor communication infrastructure when a person’s phone service is out.
“If we have a problem,” he said, “somebody could die. It’s a real safety issue.”
Gary Haugen urged the board to at least take a vote on Ralston’s motion on the Blandin grant.
“Why can’t you get a second on that motion,” he asked. “Can you individually tell me why?”
Chairman Carmen DeLuca refused to bring the issue back to the table.
“We will move on,” DeLuca said.
But the audience wasn’t done speaking on the issue.
Hatlestad noted that Frontier is facing huge financial challenges right now.
“We need another phone company,” he said.
Bassing said that residents in Morcom Township made efforts to contact other phone carriers, such as Paul Bunyan out of Grand Rapids, to see if they were interested in providing service.
Gately stressed this was an economic development issue.
“A lot of people would make the decision to move here,” she said, noting the lack of broadband was a huge problem for many, especially the younger generations.
Ralston asked if the township should set a public meeting and invite Frontier and other internet and phone providers to talk with the public, and the audience responded with applause. Ralston said he would follow-up on the issue.
Check your fire number signs
The Greenwood Fire Department once again is reminding all township property owners to make sure they have fire numbers both at their driveways and docks, and that the fire numbers are visible. This also applies to water-access and island properties. The fire department and ambulance have had issues finding specific addresses, which increases response times. New or additional fire numbers are available by contacting the town hall, and the cost is $10, which is below the actual cost of creating the signs.
In other business the town board:
• Heard from Treasurer Pam Rodgers that the township needs to provide additional paperwork to new hourly employees to adhere to a new Minnesota law. The law also requires payroll to be paid out no longer than 31 days apart. Rodgers told the board that the easiest way to comply with the 31-day rule is to move payday to the 15th of each month.
• Heard an update that the idea of switching to a hired clerk/treasurer, instead of the current elected clerk and treasurer, was not recommended by the Minnesota Association of Townships except in cases where townships cannot find any people willing to run for the position. Clerk Drobac asked the other supervisors to contact an official at MAT to discuss the issue.
• Heard that officials from OSHA had visited the town hall to investigate 17 complaints that had been filed with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. The town board was not told who had filed the complaints, but they dealt with the fire department. Clerk Sue Drobac said the investigators spent about six hours at the town hall, inspecting equipment and fire department records. They will be reviewing the information collected and may need additional information from the township, Drobac said, to determine if the complaints were legitimate.
• Thanked Richard “Ozzie” Leciejewski for installing the new POW and US flags.
• Passed a motion to refuse data requests from resident and fire department member Jeff Maus, noting the township is not bound by the state’s data practices rules. This had been recommended by the township’s attorney, since the township is currently in litigation with Maus.
• Voted to continue paying Frontier for internet service even though the township office and computers are now hooked up to broadband through Northeast Service Coop. The termination fee would be $1,803 to discontinue Frontier, even with the township continuing to use Frontier telephone service. The township’s contract runs out in September 2021. The new broadband service will be costing the township about $50 per month.