Supervisors approve trio of broadband expansion resolutions
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
LINCOLN COUNTY – Three resolutions related to broadband internet expansion were approved by the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors this week.
The resolutions originated in the county’s Broadband Committee, formed last year and tasked with gaining an understanding of the county’s broadband needs and looking into opportunities for service expansion.
During the board’s roughly one-hour meeting at the Lincoln County Service Center in Merrill on Monday, Feb. 20, Broadband Committee Chair and District 18 Supervisor Ken Wickham walked his fellow Supervisors through the resolutions.
Under the first resolution, the county board expresses its support for telecommunicating opportunities throughout the county and authorizes the Broadband Committee to submit an application for Telecommuter Forward! Community certification to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (WPSC).
Wickham explained that the resolution “puts on record the county’s support” for investing in telecommunication, and the certification will help the county in the event it applies for broadband expansion grants or gives its endorsement to other grant applicants.
The second resolution aims to help improve broadband service in three Lincoln County townships.
Charter Communications Inc. previously asked for Lincoln County’s support in applying for a WPSC State Broadband Expansion Grant project in the county.
The roughly $2.9 million project would impact 229 households in the Towns of Pine River, Russell and Schley, according to Charter.
Under the resolution, Lincoln County would allocate $200,000.00 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the project, while Charter would contribute about $690,000.00. The remaining cost – roughly $2 million – would be covered by the grant.
The third broadband-related resolution approved by the board gives Lincoln County the green light to submit a letter of intent to participate in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Local Planning Grant Program.
Wickham explained that WPSC recently said it plans on allocating $1.5 million among all counties that submit a letter of intent to participate in the program, under which the county would have the opportunity to apply for funds either on its own or collaboratively with entities such as the Grow North Economic Development Corporation.
The county would face no obligations under the resolution, Wickham noted.
“It just declares our intent, that we would like to pursue a grant,” he stated, adding that once WPSC determines how many entities are interested in receiving funds, it will make a decision regarding how to distribute the monies.
Next county board meeting
The next meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors will be held at the Lincoln County Service Center, 801 N. Sales St., Merrill, on Tuesday, March 21 at 6 p.m.