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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Greenwood to apply for more broadband funding

Jodi Summit
Posted 8/12/21

GREENWOOD TWP- Chairman Mike Ralston told the Greenwood Town Board that the township’s $5.5 million request for broadband funding is part of the just-approved Senate Infrastructure bill, having …

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Greenwood to apply for more broadband funding

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GREENWOOD TWP- Chairman Mike Ralston told the Greenwood Town Board that the township’s $5.5 million request for broadband funding is part of the just-approved Senate Infrastructure bill, having been put on the list by both Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar.
This funding, if approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Joe Biden, would provide the vast majority of the estimated $6.6 million project.
The township will also be applying for grant funding from a new St. Louis County broadband program that will award a maximum of $400,000, and grant dollars from the IRRR.
Greenwood Township also received $50,316 in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, but whether the board will set aside those funds for a local match to the proposed broadband project is yet to be determined. The township will receive a similar amount in 2022.
Supervisor Sue Drobac asked Ralston why other board members weren’t informed that the township had received the American Rescue Act funding as of the end of July. She said that members of the township’s broadband committee had submitted their own application.
“We need more communication,” Drobac said. “We spent a lot of time on this.”
Ralston agreed, and said he had sent the application to Deputy Treasurer Tammy Mortaloni to complete.
“There was a long list of COVID-related items we could use it for,” he said.
The board asked the broadband committee, which includes Drobac and Supervisor Barb Lofquist, to be in charge of submitting the grant to the new St. Louis County broadband program, which will distribute a total of $1.75 million in American Rescue Plan monies for broadband projects. That grant application is due in September.
The board voted down a motion by Drobac to place the $50,316 in American Rescue Plan dollars into a restricted broadband account, with Ralston and Supervisors Carmen DeLuca and Paul Skubic all voting against.
The board then approved, unanimously, a motion that any grants written specifically for broadband infrastructure would go into a restricted account. This still leaves the township the option of using some or all of the $50,316 for the broadband project.
A survey for township residents to gauge interest in receiving broadband should be available on the township website, www.greenwoodtownshipmn.com, and all township property owners will be mailed a letter urging them to complete the study, or to return a paper copy as soon as possible.
Other business
In other business, the town board:
• Had unanswered questions on why the township was assessed late payment and penalty fees by the State of Minnesota for payroll taxes. Treasurer Belinda Fazio was not at the meeting and Clerk Debby Spicer was unable to answer the board’s questions. The board also had other questions on the month’s disbursements, including a $226 bill from Culligan for a service visit that no one on the board knew anything about. This was on top of the regular bill for salt and filters. The board also questioned a missing check that was not on last month’s or this month’s register.
• The board authorized Drobac to get in contact with the ADP payroll service to correct an issue with the dating of payroll that Treasurer Belinda Fazio has been unable to correct since she is not working at the township office during regular office hours.
• Discussed the idea put forward at the annual meeting of splitting the ambulance subsidy payments between the Tower and Cook ambulance services, since Cook does service some of the western portion of the township. The township would need to figure out the number of year-round residents served by the Cook Ambulance Service.
• Heard that the equipment from the medical loan closet in Tower is being distributed among various township and city of Tower locations, including the Greenwood Town Hall. The closet had been centrally located in the Jeanne’s Card building in Tower, but that building has been sold, so a new home for the equipment was needed. Organizer Pam Lundstrom urged area residents to check with the loan closet for things like wheelchairs and crutches before purchasing them for short-term use.
• Election Judge Ruth DeLuca, during public comment, said she did not agree with the statements read at the annual meeting by several other election judges. “I don’t appreciate being listed as one of the judges asking for an apology from Mike [Ralston],” she said.
• Approved a proposal from the township’s current website provider, Tech Bytes, to update the township’s website for $1,500, with additional fees, as needed for monthly support time.
• Heard that the township’s errors and omissions insurance carrier was no longer offering that type of coverage and was transferring the township to a different non-affiliated carrier. Ralston said the township has already received the application from the new insurance broker and said the transfer should be complete before the existing policy ends in October. The Minnesota Association of Townships’ insurance division, MATIT, which holds the township’s other policies, stopped offering the township this type of insurance due to the high number of claims being filed against the board, which forced the township to pay for an additional policy.
• Approved signing the 2021 ambulance subsidy agreement contract and sending the first half payment of $6,750 to the Tower Ambulance Service.
• Will send a letter to St. Louis County requesting they repair potholes and shoulders along the Birch Point Extension Road.
• Approved increasing the annual EMS pension amount to $2,000 a year, beginning in 2022.
• Drobac noted she still had not received the copies of the fire department minutes she had requested, as well as a timesheet detailing the hours spent by the deputy treasurer on specific duties. Ralston said he would talk to the clerk and treasurer to make sure she received this information.

Comments

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Bev Peterson

The above quote, "I don't appreciate being listed as one of the judges asking for an apology from Mike [Ralston]" by Ruth DeLuca, one of the Greenwood election judges, needs clarification. No one who spoke at the Annual Meeting about the issue mentioned a "list". Ruth DeLuca's statement is a bit ironic, considering that it is very important for election judges to be accurate.

To be clear, here is a copy of the statement that I read to the public at the Greenwood Annual Meeting on July 22nd:

"At the July 13th, 2021 Greenwood Town Board meeting, Chairman Mike Ralston stated that the 2020 annual meeting levy vote was, "Probably swung by an ineligible voter." These exact words can be heard on the meeting recording and were quoted as such in The Timberjay's article on July 16th.

This statement by Chairman Ralston -in his official capacity as Chairman of Town Board is problematic and damaging. Stating that an ineligible vote occurred directly implicates all Greenwood Township Election Judges and raises unwarranted doubts about the integrity of

our election process. As noted in the Timberjay article of July 16, "Ralston did not elaborate on his claim," and at no time since that 2020 levy vote has any concern been raised.

As an Election Judge, I want to clarify for the record, that before a vote at an Annual Meeting, Election Judges verify that each voter is shown on the Official Election Register and is not just a resident.

While some might think this is a small issue, in fact The Timberjay newspaper -where Chairman Ralston's statement is printed- has approximately 3000 readers of the print version, and their online version has approximately 19,000 unique visitors a month and an

average of 41,000 total page views. These numbers were confirmed by The Timberjay editor Jodi Summit on 7/22/21.

Chairman Ralston's statement tarnishes the reputation of both the Election Judges and Greenwood Township as a whole by casting doubt on the integrity of our elections.

A statement can be defined as slander or defamation when it "tends so to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community."

Chairman Ralston needs to formally retract his statement and apologize to the Election Judges and the people of Greenwood township.

Bev Peterson

Greenwood Township Election Judge"

Thursday, August 12