GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood Town Hall hosted a small audience on Tuesday, all properly spaced, for its first in-person town board meeting since pandemic restrictions went into place last spring. The …
GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood Town Hall hosted a small audience on Tuesday, all properly spaced, for its first in-person town board meeting since pandemic restrictions went into place last spring. The meeting was also available by teleconference.
Chairman Mike Ralston, after hearing a report from the township’s newly-created broadband committee, said the township had recently received a proposal from CTC, a broadband provider currently working on a project on the Vermilion Reservation, that would include installation of 105 miles of fiber to over 1,100 locations within the township. The project has an estimated price tag of over $4 million.
“Their next step is to meet with the township and determine how to fund it,” Ralston said. “There are a lot of options out there.”
Ralston also said he had received emails from Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith seeking information on broadband projects needing federal funding.
“Time is of the essence,” he said. “We need to get an application in by 10 days.”
Greenwood would qualify for this federal funding, Ralston said, since it is separate from the RDOF funding which the township doesn’t qualify for.
St. Louis County may also have funding available through federal CARES Act monies, Ralston said.
Supervisor Barb Lofquist, who is chairing the township broadband committee, said IRRR Commissioner Mark Phillips, who attended their committee meeting, had given them contacts of local officials with experience completing these applications.
The township already has many of the pieces required for the application in place. The board decided to see if deputy treasurer Tammy Mortaloni, who has done some grant writing for the township previously, could put the application together.
The board also voted to dedicate the first half of the $110,000 in America Rescue Act funding it is set to receive to its share of any broadband project costs, as well as the $97,000 the township has in its community enhancement fund, which previously was used to provide low-interest loans for septic system replacement or construction.
Ralston said he had been talking with Nick Skarich about bonding possibilities, if needed.
Recreation board update
Recreation Board member Jarri Ankrum updated the board on the township’s recreation facilities. The pavilion and tennis court are both open and being used. A new bocce ball league is being organized and more information will be available soon. The group planted three new maple trees by the pavilion and will be watering as needed. Ankrum asked the board to consider adopting a policy on tennis court use, setting a time limit on court use if another party is waiting to play. Pickleball is being played on the court most weekday mornings.
Information request policy changed
“The clerk’s job is to be here for the public,” said Drobac, who used to serve as township clerk. “Why are we charging the public for an information request that takes less than five minutes. I would like to have information requests at no charge.”
Ralston noted the township had changed the policy after some information requests got difficult.
“There was quite a bit of time spent by the clerk,” he said.
Drobac amended her motion to state that requests that require under 15 minutes of time and fewer than 25 copies should be free of charge, though costs such as postage or a thumb drive would be billed.
Drobac said she would bring a draft of the new policy to next month’s meeting.
The motion passed on a 4-0 vote.
Drobac asked the board to review the current township policy on behavior which states that representatives and employees should not distribute disparaging, harassing, or threatening emails about fellow representatives, employees, or citizens of the township, and that all representatives, employees and citizens should be respectful and courteous to each other.
Drobac had received an email from fire department employee Jeff Maus which detailed multiple incidents at a recent fire department meeting when such behavior was directed against Maus by a fire department official and another member while the fire chief was present and did nothing to step in. The verbal threats included threats of violence against Maus.
“The above action is a clear violation of Greenwood policy and has no place in the workplace,” Maus said. Maus said he spoke with Chief Fazio about the incident after the meeting, but said to his knowledge Fazio had not followed up on the incident.
“These are violations of our policies,” said Drobac. “We need to use our board policies to better help our township.”
When asked about the incident, Fazio had no clear response. He indicated the situation arose in reaction to Maus’s publishing a paid ad in the Timberjay which showed fire department and township officials not wearing masks, as required, during a fire department meeting. Maus has repeatedly angered fire department and township officials for reporting on safety and workplace violations in the department.
Fazio said it was harassment to put that picture in the paper, and said it was their interpretation that it was harassment that caused the behavior at the fire department meeting.
Drobac and Lofquist added that their pictures had been placed in the Tower News, prior to the election, and suggested that DeLuca had given the photo to the Tower News, which DeLuca then denied. Ralston noted this was not related to the topic on the table.
“Sue handed out a letter and we are dealing with the letter,” Ralston said. Though DeLuca disagreed and added “and harassment of myself.” Then Clerk Spicer added “and myself.”
“We have policies and they need to be respected,” Drobac. “None of this should be happening.”
“I agree but some people don’t respect it,” said DeLuca.
In other business, the board:
• Tabled the approval of last month’s minutes after Drobac noted the minutes discussed a change to the pavilion rental policy, but didn’t include what the change actually entailed.
• Has added public comments back onto the monthly agenda now that meetings are being held in person.
• Voted on a motion by Drobac to have additional information from both the clerk and treasurer (schedule 1 forms) included in the monthly packet. The motion failed on a 2-2 vote, with DeLuca and Ralston voting against. Drobac noted this form, completed by both the clerk and treasurer, need to match each month. A difference had been noted at this year’s Board of Audit, and was subsequently corrected. Clerk Debby Spicer said she doesn’t have the information in time to include it in the meeting packet. Ralston noted that the information is reviewed at the Board of Audit.
• Approved a motion to have both the deputy treasurer and deputy clerk submit a monthly accounting of their duties, along with hours submitted. The deputy treasurer is currently doing additional work, not related to the deputy treasurer duties. The clerk has not yet appointed a deputy clerk. Drobac offered to create a new form to document this information.
• Referred a request by Lofquist to increase the annual pension amount for EMS staff from $1,500 to $2,000 per year to the fire department for preliminary approval.
This is a separate pension from the firefighters PERA fund. Lofquist noted the training and call requirements are more stringent than for firefighters.
• Discussed making updates to the website.
• Approved a quote of $2,548 from Advanced Door in Eveleth to replace an overhead door in the fire hall that was damaged. DeLuca noted the doors are about 40 years old, and the new door will be better insulated. The board also approved having the company repair some panels in the other door.
• Approved a $100 donation to the Tower-Soudan Fourth of July Committee.
• Approved a$100 donation to the Lake Vermilion Chamber on a 3-1 vote, with DeLuca voting against. Declined to donate to the Tower Cemetery on a 2-2 vote, with DeLuca and Ralston voting against.
• Heard an update on the possible paving project on Birch Point Extension. The township will not hear if they have received funding for the project until June or early July.
The story has been edited to correct source of federal funding that will be used for broadband. The funding is coming from this year's America Rescue Plan, not last year's CARES Act funding.