Lincoln County board votes to establish Broadband Commission

By Jalen Maki

Tomahawk Leader Editor

MERRILL – Last week, the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution establishing a commission focused on improving broadband internet access and service in the county.

The Broadband Commission will be comprised of county department leaders, representatives from local governments and school districts, emergency services personnel and staff from area medical providers.

The resolution was on the board’s July meeting agenda and was carried over to this month’s meeting at the Lincoln County Service Center in Merrill. The vote to establish the commission followed a recommendation from the county’s Broadband Committee.

The resolution approved by the board on Tuesday, Aug. 15 said the Broadband Commission will be organized under the Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation (LCEDC), a nonprofit organization not affiliated with Lincoln County.

LEDC offers free and confidential assistance in the areas of financial packaging, site planning, business planning and workforce development to county businesses and those seeking to do business in the county. 

The resolution pointed to the need for reliable, high-speed internet for educational and professional purposes and said the availability of broadband internet service throughout Lincoln County will enhance the efficiency of emergency and medical services and improve the safety of county residents and visitors.

The commission will be made up of one member of LCEDC as chosen by the organization, one member of the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors as appointed by Board Chair Don Friske, one member of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office or Dispatch Center as appointed by Sheriff Ken Schneider, a representative of all county fire departments as nominated by the departments, one member from each major medical provider in the county as designated by those organizations, one member from each of the Tomahawk and Merrill school districts as appointed by their respective school boards and one member from each county municipality as appointed by the appropriate boards or councils, as well as Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Renee Krueger, Emergency Management Director Tyler Verhasselt, Informational Technology Director Travis Spoehr and Land Information Program Manager Norm Bushor.

Although a specific timeline was not included in the resolution, the board requested that the LEDC Board of Directors, “at its earliest convenience,” establish the commission and approve its members during a public meeting.

The board also recommended that the commission vote to appoint a Broadband Commission Chairman during its first meeting. The resolution said the chairman will act as the single point of contact for broadband opportunities in Lincoln County.

Under the resolution, the board recognizes the authority of Broadband Commission activities and agrees to “consider recommendations of the Broadband Commission and may authorize county sponsorship of grant funding requests and county budget funding for broadband-based activities, with future approvals by the board.”

Broadband Commission requests for county support will first go through the county’s Administrative and Legislative (A&L) Committee.

“The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors supports Broadband Commission activities to make reliable high-speed internet service, at federal minimum service standards, available to all areas of Lincoln County, with priority given to projects based on areas that are unserved or underserved,” the resolution stated.

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