Lake County's fiber plan firming upLake County is closing in on securing the promised federal funding for its fiber optic project.
Lake County is closing in on securing the promised federal funding for its fiber optic project. County coordinator Matt Huddleston briefed the county board on the project at its regular meeting Tuesday.
He expects final paperwork to be finished by the end of the month, including the approval of an operations and management agreement with Lake Communications, which encompasses the two-man team that has been working on project planning since this past spring – Jeff Roiland and Gene South. It will run the network of high-speed internet, video, and telephone service.
The agreement, contingent on the release of $66.5 million in funds from the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, pays Lake Communications $66,000 per month in the first year of a five-year deal. If the contractor meets expectations for the network as described in the contract and under RUS review, the monthly rate goes up to $78,000 per month by the fifth year. The total compensation for the term of the contract is $4.4 million to run the network.
The county will be paying Lakes Communications for the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of the network outside of the telephone service. It will use the grant and loan money from RUS. The county will form a board to oversee costs. The contract allows a 60-day notice of termination for cause, while a termination without cause would require the payment of the remaining contract.
The board will vote on the contract at its Oct. 25 meeting.
The board on Tuesday approved the purchase of the former First Solutions building in Two Harbors as the home for Lake Connections, the name of the service. The county will pay $415,000 for the building pending final inspections, Huddleston said.
A web site has been created for the network, lakeconnections.com, that provides information on the project.
The project is expected to be more visible later this fall or in early winter, Huddleston said, as crews begin stringing fiber lines in coverage area cities like Ely, Silver Bay, and Two Harbors.
The county highway department did patch work on the Wales Road (County Road 14) after culvert work this summer.
It contracted with Ulland Brothers for the job with a cost cap of $18,000.
The road will get a new surface next year, and county highway engineer said Tuesday he will seek federal funding in a partnership with the University of Minnesota Duluth to use taconite rock. UMD’s natural Resources Research Institute has been working for years on using waste rocks from taconite production for road surfaces. The project on Wales would include a research and educational component for students studying the use of taconite, which has proven in early studies to be much more durable than conventional bituminous surfaces.
Lake County Attorney Laura Auron will file an amicus brief supporting the appeal by AT&T to erect a cell tower off the Fernberg Road in Fall Lake Township. A Hennepin County court ruling earlier this year banned the construction of a 450-foot tower that was approved by the county.
The group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness filed suit against the tower, saying it would be too visible for those in the protected Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
AT&T is going ahead with the construction of 200-foot tower, allowed by the judge in the original decision, until the court case is settled. The county joins the township and the Association of Lake and Cook County Township Officers in supporting AT&T.
Fair attendance up
The Lake County Agriculture Society’s Fair Board reported that gate receipts were up from last year for the county fair. People paid $9,000 to get into the fair but the cost of attractions and promotion was $17,200, the board reported. It also has some maintenance issues to deal with on the fairgrounds.
The county board appropriated $20,500 to the fair board this year.
The fair board receives money from the county and also gets money from renting the grounds for winter storage and events such as weddings and reunions. The fair board will approach the county board with its proposal for funding after the annual meeting in November.
The county board also approved $20,500 in 2010. In 2009, the board increased the budget by $8,000 to reinvigorate the fair. The county board plans to keep the funding at $20,500 through 2012 but in 2013 there are plans to go back to a $12,500 appropriation.