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Carlton County Board gives support to two broadband initiatives

The Carlton County Board of Commissioners gave its support to two broadband initiatives seeking state funding, one being the Cloquet initiative and one brought forward from Frontier Communications.

Carlton County Transportation Building
The Carlton County Transportation Building . Dylan Sherman / 2022 file / Pine Journal
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CARLTON — The Carlton County Board of Commissioners approved a letter of support to two broadband initiatives seeking state funding to expand broadband connectivity during a meeting Monday, July 25.

The initiatives, one from the city of Cloquet and the other from Frontier Communications, requested letters of support from the county board to give themselves a better chance of receiving state funding. Providing a letter of support does not mean the county will contribute funds toward the projects. The Cloquet initiative will cost $1.5 million if Thomson Township is included, or $984,000 if the township is not included. The Frontier Communications project is estimated to cost just under $6 million, according to the Carlton County Economic Development Authority.

The request from Frontier Communications, which intends on expanding in the Cromwell area, was met with some hesitation from board members when it was presented.

Board Chair Gary Peterson said none of the people he has spoken with has had positive things to say about their experience with Frontier Communications.

"As the county, do we want to go on the record supporting something like that?" he said.

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Peterson added that he was aware of other companies planning to expand in the Cromwell area as well.

Mary Finnegan, the county's economic development director, said the same discussions were made before the request was brought to the board, but Frontier is the only company seeking state funding to expand in the area. It would be beneficial to support the only company in the area seeking state funding, she said.

County coordinator Dennis Genereau said officials could state in the letter that while they support the request they have been disappointed by the current service and hope moving forward they will do a better job.

The board agreed and adopted the language Genereau proposed for Frontier Communications letter.

In other county business, officials held a budget presentation preceding the regular meeting where each county department gave an update on its plans and budgets for the upcoming year.

Many department heads said they are seeing the effect of inflation in their costs, especially when it comes to the cost of fuel.

The sheriff's office, transportation department and even the Arrowhead Library System, which has a Bookmobile, are anticipating rising fuel costs.

Sheriff Kelly Lake said with the justice center becoming a reality in the future, maintenance costs for the current jail are projected to be smaller in the upcoming years. Crucial or required maintenance will still be made on the current jail, as it is expected to hold inmates until the new justice center opens in 2024, but Lake said she does not want to continue to invest in a building that the county will not use.

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Another issue many of the departments are dealing with is the difficulty of finding vehicles. Lake said they might have to start looking at used cars for investigators and that maintenance costs could rise in the future if vehicles are not able to be replaced.

County engineer JinYeene Neumann said trucks purchased by the transportation department in 2020 didn't arrive until this year, and new ones ordered this year will not be delivered until 2023.

With the information now presented to the board, the next step will be for officials to set the county's preliminary levy in September.

This story was updated at 1:19 p.m. July 27 with additional information about the proposed broadband projects. It was originally posted at 8:26 p.m. July 25.

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Related Topics: CARLTON COUNTYCARLTON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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