One more step for countywide broadbandGary Fields of National Public Broadband said his company is within days of hearing the result of a grant application that could lead to the high-speed wiring of all locales in Lake County.
By: Matt Suoja, Lake County News Chronicle
Gary Fields of National Public Broadband said his company is within days of hearing the result of a grant application that could lead to the high-speed wiring of all locales in Lake County.
But even with the decision — from the Rural Utilities Service Broadband Initiatives Program — not yet in hand, the county moved forward on the initiative Tuesday, passing a resolution to start contract negotiations for construction and design of the network with Ledcor Technical Services. The company has worked on projects similar to Lake County’s before, including one in Oregon. NPB, which has been working with the county on the various aspects of the broadband plan, would help with the negotiations.
“There’s no obligation at this point,” said Fields about working with the group.
Different interests coming together are nothing new for the broadband project, Commissioner Paul Bergman said.
“We’ve had great people working together [on the project],” he said.
The project will not only include Internet service, but high-speed wiring for televisions and phones.
If it gets off the ground, it would still be run by NPB.
The board is currently seeking about $22 million for a loan and $11 million in grants, plus $4 million from county revenue bonds for the Broadband Initiatives Program. A response is expected in the coming days.
…and baby-steps on nursing home discussion
The Lake County Board discussed selling or leasing the Sunrise Nursing Home in Two Harbors.
“It doesn’t make sense to stay in the nursing home business,” Commissioner Rich Sve said.
Much of the discussion — hardly the first time it has been brought up by the board — focused on how the nursing home employees would be affected by the transition to a private business enterprise.
“How do we protect the employees?” asked Commissioner Tom Clifford.
Union representative Diane Firkus said the employees are concerned about issues such as health insurance, their salaries and Public Employees Retirement benefits.
But employees were not the only concern.
“I have concerns for the residents,” said Commissioner Brad Jones, questioning what sort of the treatment they would get if Sunrise was switched from public to private.
The county is looking at Ecumen as one group that could be interested in taking over.
Commissioners pointed to other Minnesota counties getting out of the nursing home business. Earlier this month, St. Louis County commissioners voted to lease its county-owned Chris Jensen Health & Rehabilitation Center in Duluth to Minneapolis-based Health Dimensions Group Inc.
Under the agreement, Chris Jensen’s more than 200 workers would no longer be county employees but instead would work for the new company. Health Dimensions has negotiations with the nursing home’s union set for late October.