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County considers broadband project

FAIRMONT– The Martin County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday heard from Scott Bohler of Frontier Communications, Inc. who asked for a letter of support from the county for the grant application to the DEED- Office of Broadband, Minnesota Border to Border Grant Program.

The proposed project would cover about 500 locations in the Fairmont, Northrop and Ceylon area.

Commissioner Kathy Smith asked if the proposal was brought to the broadband committee. Bohler said the specifics haven’t been presented to them.

The commissioners noted that the city of Ceylon has already received a broadband grant and has been working with Federated on a project. Bohler said they had designed the project based off of the areas that the state program identified as eligible for funding.

“Why should we support another project in the same area if it’s already taken care of?” Smith asked.

Commissioner Richard Koons asked if it would cover the entire zip code or just in the city. Bohler said for Ceylon and Northrop it doesn’t cover outside of city limits.

“I won’t support a program that’s not going to cover the entire zip code anymore. That’s part of these grants, it’s supposed to cover the whole zip code, not just where they can make a few bucks,” said Koons.

Bohler said the thought that the program must cover an entire zip code is not the case, rather he said the program identifies areas that are eligible.

Smith asked about the $3.5 million project Frontier did in 2016. Bohler said the expectations have changed from then to now.

Bohler said that the grant needs to be applied for by Thursday this week. Commissioner Elliot Belgard noted that Frontier could apply for it without a letter of support from the county.

“I don’t think supporting it can necessarily be a bad thing. If it’s not worthy we’ll let the committee that decides who gets the grants say it’s not worthy, not us,” said Belgard.

Smith made a motion to approve of the letter of support for Frontier.

Moving to other matters, Bryan Stading, CEDA (Community Economic Development Associates) Consultant, provided the 2021 Martin County EDA annual report.

“We’re kind of at the tail-end of the Covid pandemic. That was incredibly difficult on businesses but we were able to serve 108 entrepreneurs and spent over 783 hours with a variety of services,” Stading said.

Belgard noted that the county recently ended services with RCEF (Regional Center for Entrepreneurial Facilitation) and entered into an agreement with CEDA. Stading will still be working about four days a week but another consultant from CEDA will also be working on projects here.

“We want to make sure that all of the projects we are actively engaged in are maintained,” Stading said.

County Engineer, Kevin Peyman also presented to the board a preliminary budget request for 2023 road, bridge and park.

As for the levy request, Peyman said, “it is probably one of the bigger requests I’ve had, which maybe isn’t surprising. It’s $2.693 million. Last year we were $2.573. It’s almost a $120,000 increase, which is a 4.6 percent increase.”

The biggest budget items for 2023 are in payroll, health insurance, gas and diesel and seal coat oil.

“We’re seeing 5 to 10 percent increases in everything and the availability of getting it,” Peyman said.

The board filed the budget request.

The board also approved a re-zoning request for a property along 125th Street on the north side of the city of Sherburn from “A” agricultural district to “HB” highway business.

“They would like to construct an event center to host weddings graduations, company gatherings and other similar gatherings for patrons of Martin County and the surrounding area,” said Pam Flitter, Planning and Zoning Director.

Moving to other matters, the board authorized the EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet) for the proposed Lorentz and Sons Construction gravel pit project as complete; however it decided that a public meeting would be beneficial so that the board and citizens can ask questions. The meeting was set for 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 15. At that time they’ll work to figure out if they need to do an EIS (Environmental Impact Study)

In other news, the board approved the following hires:

— James Berg as an Associate County Attorney.

— Kurt Nelson as a full-time Correctional Deputy.

— Miranda Parrot as a part-time Correctional Deputy.

In other action, the board:

— Set a public hearing date of 10 a.m. on Sept. 6 to consider a tax abatement request from Theodore and Jacqueline Fisher for new construction of a single family home in Granada, and Ronald and Lana Morris for new construction of a single family home in Sherburn.

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