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GREENWOOD TWP- The Greenwood Town Board welcomed one new member, albeit one with actual supervisor experience, at its reorganizational meeting on March 23. John Bassing took a seat at the table, …
GREENWOOD TWP- The Greenwood Town Board welcomed one new member, albeit one with actual supervisor experience, at its reorganizational meeting on March 23. John Bassing took a seat at the table, along with re-elected supervisor Paul Skubic, now serving his third term on the board.
Bassing, who had served as board chair during most prevoious term from 2015-2018, was elected as chair on a 4-1 vote, with supervisor Barb Lofquist voting against. Former chair Sue Drobac, who told the board she did not want the chair seat, was elected vice-chair with a 5-0 vote.
The board spent time discussing its broadband strategy. The township had been unsuccessful over the past few years in securing the needed grant funds to bring broadband (high-speed internet) to township residents, but the township got some good news recently when the majority of the township was included in a $20 million grant received by the Bois Forte Band.
Bassing discussed bringing in residents from areas that are not part of this project to work with the township on securing grant funds to extend broadband to more remote areas in Greenwood. The board also discussed meeting with planners at Bois Forte to discuss the project and its timeline.
While the Bois Forte grant is a windfall for the township’s efforts to extend broadband, at least one person remains unhappy.
“I have a problem with the map,” said Lee Peterson.
Bassing said Bois Forte had been awarded the almost $20 million for the project.
“That is all of our money,” Peterson said. “The concept should be that Greenwood wants broadband for all of the township.”
Peterson said the areas being served under the project were “cherry-picked. I am not sure who did it, CTC [the broadband provider] or Bois Forte.”
Drobac said the map probably had to do with deciding which areas of the township would be most difficult to serve. She said the township had gone through two grant cycles with no success and said they will be looking for additional grant opportunities to extend the broadband.
“You chose to live there,” she told Peterson, who lives on Isle of Pines.
“There is a bridge to Isle of Pines,” Peterson said. “It is cheap to lay line through conduit and the topography on the island isn’t that different from the rest of the township.”
Peterson also said there could be problems with Bois Forte owning the infrastructure for the broadband, which would then be maintained by CTC.
John Bassing said CTC will be holding a community open house at a later date to discuss the new services that will be available, which will also include cable television. Plans call for the broadband and television services to be available at a competitive price.
Broadband project background
The Timberjay reported on the Bois Forte grant back on Oct. 21, 2022. Bois Forte Information Technology Director Randy Long said the expansive project was possible because the scope of the federal Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) allowed for development in lands adjacent or near to reservations when tribal members would benefit.
“We had a really strong interest in trying to build up the area surrounding the reservation as well as the reservation itself to support a lot of our teleworkers,” Long said. “Bois Forte has been actively going down the road supporting more and more teleworkers, and current bandwidth limitations in this whole area have prevented that. From an economic development standpoint, it’ll be truly awesome for teleworking and distance learning for students. It’s going to allow telehealth and an entire gamut of things related to broadband. And it will support tribal government and its programs and operations and the tribal casino.”
The proposed service areas, which aren’t set in stone yet, will encompass two major areas.
The first is the south shore of Lake Vermilion. Likely starting just west of Tower, fiber optic broadband will stretch all the way to the west end of the lake, wrapping around the whole of Head of the Lakes Bay. The southern border for broadband deployment would be Hwy. 115 up to about Wakely Rd, where it would then taper to the northwest and Head of the Lakes Bay.
The Orr portion of the development would include residential and resort areas along the northwest shore of Pelican Lake and west along Nett Lake Rd. to serve the major areas of residential and commercial properties along the south shore.
The new system will connect with current Band projects serving the Vermilion and Nett Lake sectors and Indian Point on Pelican Lake.
Long noted the likelihood that the final scope of the deployment could be curtailed somewhat depending on the availability and cost of fiber optic cable and equipment, as well as unanticipated construction costs, which could be likely when dealing with Vermilion’s rocky south shore.
Demand for the TBCP funding far exceeded initial expectations, Long said.
“This was very, very competitive,” he said. “You had to have all your ducks in a row, everything critical to implementing a big project like this had to be listed as far as possible routes, rights-of-ways, and everything needed to make this thing go live.”
But while Long was confident the application had a strong chance of being funded, few people knew of the application until the award was announced.
“There weren’t too many people who knew about our application,” Long said. “I wanted to keep it quiet. I didn’t want a huge let-down from people if we didn’t get it. But now that we’ve got it, we have our work ahead of us.”
McGrath study update
The board received an updated version of the McGrath Study for review. They are expected to discuss the study at their regular April 11 meeting. A decision wasn’t made on whether the township’s ambulance committee will be asked to review the report, or if the township will request McGrath come and present the report in person. The new version incorporated changes requested by the township (see separate story on page one of this week’s paper).
In other business, the board:
• Designated the Timberjay as the township’s official newspaper. The Timberjay bid $1.99 per column inch for legal notices and $3.75 per column inch for display/boxed ads. The Tower News did not submit a quote.
• Reviewed the town board policies and made some minor changes as to who is permitted to have a key to the clerk/treasurer office. The policies cover procedures for contacting the township attorney and MAT, sets spending authority for the fire chief, maintenance supervisor, and clerk at $1,000 each per month, requires tape recordings of all regular/special town board meetings and fire department meetings, sets fees for copies of township records, and sets rules for the use and charges for the town hall and pavilion. The policy also sets forth a standard of behavior for representatives and employees of the township.
• Appointed Mitch Brunfelt as township attorney, but noted they may have an issue with a conflict of interest since he is also the attorney for the city of Tower; designated Frandsen Bank as the township’s bank of record; set meeting dates for the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. except for March 12, 2024 which is annual meeting/election day; and set 11 days as holidays when the town hall will not be open.
• Appointed Paul Skubic as road supervisor.
• Appointed JoAnn Bassing as the representative for the Joint Powers Recreation Board; appointed John Bassing as the representative on the Tower Ambulance Commission and Lofquist as alternate; appointed Skubic as the representative for the Lodging Tax Board; appointed John Bassing as the RAMS representative and Vermilion Trail Committee representative and the broadband representative; appointed Sue Drobac as noxious weeds supervisor; appointed Rick Stoehr as grounds and maintenance supervisor and the 911-coordinator.
• Passed a motion to allow any supervisor to attend township-related trainings, such as those put on the Minnesota Association of Townships) without prior approval from the board.
• Will send a letter to St. Louis County asking that the shoulders on Highway 115 be widened from six to eight feet, to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
• Decided to shut off the gas to the range in the town hall kitchen and will look into installing a smaller electric stove/range instead.
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