The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Iron County moves forward with broadband grant application

 

July 13, 2018



By RICHARD JENKINS

rjenkins@yourdailyglobe.com

HurleyIron County is continuing its efforts to expand broadband access throughout the country, with the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee budgeting $18,000 towards local matching funds for the latest state grant application Wednesday.

The application to the Wisconsin Public Services Commission is seeking to build a new tower in the area near Fisher Lake in the town of Mercer.

“This would be a new tower out near Fisher Lake and it would kind of expand off of what we’ve already been doing — with Lake of the Falls, and Spider Lake, and Popko Circle and all of those towers,” Iron County Development Zone Coordinator Kelly Klein told the Daily Globe Thursday. “So it would build off other projects.”

Klein said the planned tower would provide service to residents living in the area around Fisher and Catherine lakes.

The money the finance committee agreed to contribute to the project would be just half of the local match, according to Klein, with GogebicRange.net also contributing to the local match — most likely in in-kind labor on the project.

GogebicRange.net has partnered with Iron County on several past broadband expansion projects.

The Fisher Lake project is expected to cost $53,276, Klein said, with roughly $36,000 of the cost coming from the local match.

Along with the new Fisher Lake project, Iron County’s grant application is also seeking an additional $18,300 for a previous project to build towers in the Spider Lake and Lake of the Falls areas of Mercer.

The state awarded that project $47,925 of the $66,225 requested in grant funding in April.

“We are asking for the balance of that — that Lake of the Falls project — and then we’re asking for funds to help with Fisher Lake,” Klein said.

At the time the county received the initial partial funding, Gogebic Range Broadband Committee chairman Norman McKindles said state officials indicated there would be a good chance the county would receive the remaining funds if it applied in the June grant cycle.

The $18,000 approved Tuesday would only be the local match for the Fisher Lake project, Klein said, with the local match for the earlier project having been previously budgeted.

The total Spider Lake and Lake of the Falls project is expected to cost $1,343,451 when combining the grant funds and local match amounts.

The county’s grant application is due next week, with Klein saying he hopes to hear whether Iron County is getting grant funding some time in September.

While the county has been fairly consistent in submitting grant projects for most, if not all, of the recent grant cycles, Klein said there will likely be a pause after the Fisher Lake project is completed to reassess the state of the county’s broadband infrastructure.

“I think we’re going to have to do some mapping out where there are gaps in coverage. We’ve talked about maybe doing another survey,” Klein said. “We’ve done quite a few towers.”

The county has had two previous projects receiving a total of $121,105 in Public Service Commission grants to expand broadband access to parts of the county since 2015.

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.

 
 

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