The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Finance committee moves forward with broadband grant



HurleyIron County will try for yet another broadband expansion project, Iron County Finance Committee approved moving forward with a grant application for the state’s 2018 Broadband Expansion program.

Once again, the county’s project will focus on the southern part of Iron County — this time proposing the construction of 150-foot towers on sites near Lake of the Falls and Spider Lake in the town of Mercer.

The total project is expected to be $134,451; with the county seeking an approximately $66,225 Wisconsin Public Service Commission grant. The remaining funds will come from Iron County, the town of Mercer and; the private company the county has worked with on past grants. president Brandon Yuchasz told the Daily Globe the towers are planned to be constructed back from the lakes to limit the impact on the aesthetics.

According to information provided at the meeting, Iron County is expected to contribute roughly $30,788, with contributing $33,437 in a mixture of cash and in-kind donations.

Tuesday morning, the Mercer Town Board approved contributing an additional $4,000 to the project.

Mercer Town Chairman John Sendra told the Daily Globe Tuesday he was contacted by quite a few residents who told him how important the project was, and how better internet access had the potential to expand work-from-home opportunities in the region.

This is the third time the county has sought funds from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

In both 2015 and 2016, the committee has organized successful grant applications to expand access in Iron County, netting a total of $121,105 in grants.

In 2015, $41,914 — along with local matching funds — went to a project to expand access in the areas around Saxon, Upson and the Gile Flowage. In 2016, a $79,101 grant went to expand access in the Pine Lake, Mercer, Saxon Harbor and Springstead areas.

The Pine Lake and Mercer towers are already online, Yuchasz said, with the Springstead tower expected to be brought on-line by the end of July.

Yuchasz said the proposed projects, particularly the Lake of the Falls site, really spun-off from the Springstead project.

Yuchasz said his company was contacted by a number of people in the area around Lake of the Falls interesting in getting service from the Springstead tower, but the distance didn’t work — leading to the proposed site in the grant.

Iron County’s broadband expansion effort has been praised by state leaders — particularly regarding the number of partners incorporated into the projects — with its success evident in the repeated successful grant applications.

“I think (partnerships) are a priority factor ... because partnerships help make these projects successful. Bringing all these different folks together from the community really shows they’re eager for these projects to be successful,” State Broadband Director Angie Dickison told the Daily Globe at a ceremony celebrating the last grant in November. “It’s an example we share with other folks around the state.”


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