REGIONAL- Minnesota’s junior U.S. Sen. Tina Smith has filed a formal request for including approximately $26 million in next year’s federal budget to support multiple initiatives to …
REGIONAL- Minnesota’s junior U.S. Sen. Tina Smith has filed a formal request for including approximately $26 million in next year’s federal budget to support multiple initiatives to benefit North Country communities.
Ely, Greenwood Township, and Orr would be the regional beneficiaries if Smith’s proposals make their way out of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration and into the overall FY2022 budget that goes into effect Oct. 1. Her requests include:
• $5.5 million for construction of an ambulance station in Ely to provide modern living and working conditions.
• $5 million for the City of Orr for an emergency services facility that would house the city’s ambulance and fire departments.
• $5.5 million for Greenwood Township for fiber optic broadband access for Lake Vermilion areas of the township and surrounding areas.
• $6.9 million for Bois Forte Tribal Government to provide fiber optic broadband access to the majority of Greenwood Township and its surrounding areas.
• $3.5 million for the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota to help fund construction of four new childcare facilities in Ely, Aurora, Chisholm and Pengilly serving an estimated 470 children in total.
While the emergency services and childcare projects are straightforward, the factors impacting fiber-optic-based broadband rollout in Greenwood Township are more nuanced. Earlier this year the Federal Communication Commission, through its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, gave a preliminary award to LTD Broadband LLC to provide service in the area.
The company’s application is currently undergoing a more thorough second review, with no timeline established for its completion. LTD Broadband has little experience in fiber optic installations, and the FCC has the option to withdraw the award if it so chooses. Meanwhile, township officials have been exploring the possibility of finding an alternative provider.