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County OKs broadband application

Would enable Bevcomm to bring fiber optic to five county towns

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | May 9, 2021

Faribault County commissioner Tom Loveall, above, makes a point about the broadband grant at the meeting last Tuesday.

The Faribault County Board took action at its meeting on Tuesday, May 4, to apply for the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV).

The grant requires no public match and is for broadband development.

If the county is awarded the grant, it could mean five more small towns in Faribault County would be able to have access to fiber optic, according to Annie Nichols, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) specialist for the county.

“This grant would allow us to accelerate the process of installing fiber to homes in Elmore, Bricelyn, Frost, Delavan and Easton,” Bill Eckles, of Bevcomm, told the commissioners.

Nichols explained the total grant request would be $2.8 million.

“Because the communities listed meet the income requirements for the program, Faribault County is eligible to apply,” she commented.

“Kudos to Annie and Bill Eckles for staying on top of this,” commissioner Tom Loveall said.

One of the requirements of the grant is for the county to hold a public hearing, which the County Board scheduled for Thursday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be available through Zoom.

“This would be a good thing for the county,” board member Greg Young offered. “Having high speed internet available will help make houses more attractive for those looking to relocate to a different area.”

Eckles mentioned there will be another grant to apply for later this summer.

“If we would be awarded that grant, we could have the rest of Faribault County covered in three years,” he shared.

Public Works director Mark Daly attended the meeting and informed board members Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act funds in the amount of $234,031 will be available after July 1.

“We have not received details yet on how these funds may be spent,” Daly commented.

Daly also told the commissioners new street signs have been ordered.

“The total cost of the signs is $83,000,” Daly shared. “We are purchasing and installing half of the signs this year and will do the other half in 2022.”

In his update on construction schedules for the year, Daly said work on the bridge projects would not begin until mid-August while the overlays on County State Aid Highways 16 and 1 would begin in mid-July.

He also had some other news regarding CSAH 16.

“The Minnesota Department of Transportation conducted a speed study on CSAH 16 from Blue Earth to Fairmont (the road is named CSAH 26 in Martin County), Daly commented. “CSAH 26 in Martin County was approved for 60 miles per hour but CSAH 16 was not. The reason given was there have been too many “left the road” crashes on CSAH 16.”

Daly told board members it is possible the speed limit could be raised after the overlay is complete.

“If we add shoulder rumble strips when we resurface the road this summer, it may improve the chance for the highway to be designated as a 60 mph road,” Daly said.

Following some discussion with board members, a decision was made to remove the 50 mph speed zones at Guckeen and Brush Creek.

Daly also reported the reclamation work on CSAH 31 near Walters was completed this week.

“We may or may not be able to get it paved this year,” Daly said. “The total cost of the project is now projected to be $1.6 million instead of the $3.1 originally projected.”

Moving on to other matters, the board received an update on the search for a new County Attorney.

“We have received two applications for the position,” Young told his fellow board members. “We are in the process of scheduling interviews with the prospective candidates,” Young said.

The search for a new County Attorney became necessary when Kathryn Karjala submitted her resignation in early April.

The effective date of Karjala’s resignation is July 2. Karjala has offered to help in the transition phase of a new attorney if one is able to be hired before she is set to leave.

The commissioners also:

• Received an update on the Le Sueur One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) from GIS coordinator Brandee Douglas and passed a motion to submit Faribault County’s priority issues and plan expectations to the 1W1P.

• Voted to appoint Julie J. Stenzel to the County Library Board. Stenzel will complete the term of Susan Dundas, which runs through Dec. 31.

• Passed a motion approving the sale and refurbishment of parcel No. 22.241.0650 in Bricelyn for the purpose of correcting blight.

• Approved the request of Brady Rauenhorst, who works in the County Appraisers office, to attend a General Appraiser Income Approach Course, which he will do online.