The Marshall County Commissioners submitted an additional appropriation request to the County Council on Monday for $1 million of American Rescue Plan funds for broadband expansion in the county.
On June 20th the County Commissioners voted 2-1 with Commissioner Stan Klotz voting against the recommendation to fund $500,000 to Surf Internet and $500,000 to Marshall County Fiber to extend fiber to a couple of locations in the county. Klotz indicated he wanted to review the road funding before moving forward with fiber.
Representatives from Surf Internet and Marshall County Fiber were at the June 20th meeting and explained the projects the additional dollars would fund. Surf would use the $500,000 to put fiber in the ground from LaPaz to Lake of the Woods. The project would pass about 150 homes that could hook up to the fiber. They would also invest another $1.5 million in this project.
Marshall County Fiber will spend half a million dollars on two projects. The first is to get fiber from the Marshall County REMC Smart Grid to Culver. This will support the future fiber build-out in the Town of Culver. Their second project will build the Lakes Region. This will bring fiber to residents living at Kreigbum Lake, Cook Lake, Holm Lake, Myers Lake, and Lawrence Lake. It was estimated to reach 460 potential customers.
Councilman Jesse Bohannon made a motion to amend the additional appropriation request reducing it from $1 million to $100,000 to cover the project to extend broadband to Culver. He said that project could eventually serve several thousand customers. Bohannon said he estimated it could bring service to those households at a cost of about $50 per household while the other two projects he estimated would be at an approximate cost of $3,700 per household.
Councilman Heath Thornton asked Bohannon if his motion was to serve those living in a cluster such as Culver and those living in a much less densely populated area would not be served by these two companies because of the cost. Bohannon said he was trying to offer a reasonable compromise.
Council President Mandy Campbell asked Auditor Julie Fox about the legality of amending a request from the Commissioners and she was told it could be reduced.
The motion was seconded by Councilman Tim Harman noting an efficiency argument. The vote was 2 yes votes and 5 no votes (Heath Thornton, Jim Masterson, Mandy Campbell, Jon VanVactor, and Steve Harper) so the motion to amend did not pass.
A second motion was then made by Councilman Jon VanVactor to support the original additional request of $1 million of ARP funds for Surf Internet and Marshall County Fiber and seconded by Heath Thornton. The vote was 5 yes votes and 2 no votes with Jesse Bohannon and Tim Harman voting no. The motion did pass.