City moves forward with broadbandA large crowd of citizens gathered at the Two Harbors City Council meeting Monday to express their feelings on a broadband project proposed by Lake County.
By: Matt Suoja, Lake County News Chronicle
A large crowd of citizens gathered at the Two Harbors City Council meeting Monday to express their feelings on a broadband project proposed by Lake County.
The council passed a letter of support in favor of the project’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) grant and loan application, with some provisions (both councilors John Dover and Chris Swanson were not at the meeting due to conflicts of interest).
Lake County is currently working on getting funds for the project through the RUS.
There were outbursts of supportive applause during the meeting, but there was some negativity toward the project as well.
“We don’t endorse or deny the project,” said Kevin Olson of Cooperative Light & Power.
He said the Co-op had provided a similar service before most people knew what broadband was.
Kirk Lehman, of Frontier, echoed a similar tone adding “Fiber is sexy (as an issue).”
He defended his own product with: “Frontier is part of the solution, not the problem.”
Mayor Randy Bolen also expressed some frustration at the meeting, especially with the RUS application stating he has asked to see it, but no one had given it to him as of Monday.
He did vote in support of the letter however.
“There’s no reason why it (the application) shouldn’t be public,” Bolen said.
The application was voted through by the Lake County Board Tuesday at their meeting.
Mark Broin, an advisor to the mayor, also gave his view to the proposed plans.
“I’m a concerned private citizen,” he said, adding that the financial planning details of the project could negatively impact Lake County.
Broin expressed a view that was skeptical of the county not holding any liability if the system fails.
Larry Anderson, president of local labor union for construction 1091, said he believed it would create many more jobs. “It can be a win, win for everyone,”
Gary Fields, of National Public Broadband, which would be implementing the project, thought similarly.
“Much of the U.S. is getting it,” he said. “It’s absolutely essential for economic development and job growth in the future.” He added there would be no tax player dollars pledged.
“Has there ever been a business that said ‘We don’t want to be here because you don’t have it,’” Lehman said.
Retailers can purchase part of the network for a wholesale price Fields said, adding that some larger amounts of bandwidth are not currently being offered in Two Harbors. Some of the other local retailers disagreed on this point. There was an argument about if the area is served, underserved or not served at all, with no definite conclusion.
Jeff Radle, of Lake View Memorial Hospital, said the medical community is becoming more electronic and could use some new technology.
Lehman said Frontier could run fiber into the hospital.
He also said if the broadband project went ahead, Frontier would give away Internet service for two years to retain its customers.
In other city council news:
- The council passed a business subsidy agreement between the city, Two Harbors Development Commission and Northshore Manufacturing, along with approving a development agreement by and between the company and city.
Northshore Manufacturing has agreed to provide 60 jobs for five years in exchange for a for $150,000 grant to update its sprinkler system, which did not pass inspection.
Some of the money from the original Iron Range Resources grant went to pay for Bodies in Balance’s infrastructure.
The company, home of Builtrite branded, stationary electric material handlers and truck mounted material handlers and attachments, announced the appointment of Mid-Atlantic Waste Systems (MAWS) to its distributor network last week.
MAWS will cover Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, handling Builtrite’s full line of products for the solid waste, scrap, utility and construction markets.
- Mayor Bolen also expressed concern about the safety of kids playing in the streets.
The council passed a resolution to put a “Kids Playing” sign between the 600 and 700 blocks of 15th Avenue in the alley.
Bolen suggested residents call a city representative if they have concerns about other areas.