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Thomson Township pledges $187,500 to two broadband projects

Thomson Township supervisors pledged support to both city of Cloquet and Mediacom broadband grants.

FILE:ThomsonTownHall
The Thomson Township Hall Izabel Johnson / 2021 File / Pine Journal
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ESKO — Thomson Township supervisors made a resolution of support and pledged $187,500 to two broadband initiatives in the area during a meeting Thursday, July 21.

The two initiatives include a Mediacom broadband expansion and joining the Cloquet broadband project, both of which are applying to secure state funding for their projects.

Leah Pykkonen, the township's deputy clerk, presented the Mediacom proposal to the board and explained its benefits.

According to Pykkonen, the project would cover 420 homes in the northern part of the township and connect to the existing infrastructure.

While the request from Mediacom asked for support from the township, Pykkonen said pledging funds to the project would make the application more competitive.

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Town Clerk Rhonda Peleski said the township has $565,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, and some of it could be allocated for broadband expansion.

Board Supervisor Jason Paulson initially came in with the idea of pledging $250,000 of the ARPA funds to the project.

"What would the community want? I think we should be aggressive with it," he said.

After some deliberation between board members, they agreed on pledging $150,000 to the Mediacom project.

The Cloquet broadband project, which the supervisors also pledged support to, has a smaller scope for the township as it would only cover 92 homes.

With that in mind, Paulson said it would make sense to give the project 25% of the funding, $37,500, as it would be closer to an equal share compared to the number of homes covered with the Mediacom project.

The board clarified that no funding would be given to the projects until they are underway.

Esko School Board Chair Jerry Frederick was in attendance and voiced his support for improving connectivity in the community.

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Frederick said the need for improved broadband was noticed by the district when distance learning was used during the pandemic and many students needed internet access points.

"We need to be more proactive," he said.

Frederick said he believes having a community volunteer group helping identify the greatest needs in the township would be a good next step.

In other township business, the board heard from a concerned resident about an issue with the township's sewer ordinance.

Joe Davidson, who lives on Randall Avenue, said he has been having trouble selling his house as it has lateral sewer lines connected to it, violating the township's ordinance.

Davidson said his house was built in 1975 and is connected to the main sewer line on Flynn Street, but as there is no sewer line on Randall Avenue, houses built in the following years have laterally connected to his line.

According to Township Attorney Dave Pritchett, properties in the township can only have one lateral sewer line and Davidson's home has multiple.

"What it looks like is that as that property was developed everybody tied in to the Davidson property and used it," he said. "It saved money at the moment and here we are 45 years later with a big hairy problem that has got to get fixed."

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Pritchett said a solution to this problem would be to run a small sewer line down Randall Avenue for the homes to access. The cost of adding the line would be up to the homeowners, who could pay it up front or through a special assessment, he said.

"The way they connected years and years ago is unfortunately just improper," he said.

With Davidson's home still up for sale, Pritchett said he has options by putting money into escrow, disclosing the violation to a prospective buyer and having them acknowledge responsibility or reducing the purchasing price of the home.

While there was no solution finalized at the meeting, the township authorized its engineer to move forward with working with a contractor to map the extent of the lateral lines in question.

MORE FROM DYLAN SHERMAN:
Zach Stirewalt had to look for a new apartment after two floors in Cloquet's Victory Apartments building were deemed unfit for habitation. Facing a critical shortage of housing, county officials say they are working with developers and scouting areas to build new housing.

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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