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Kandiyohi County and Willmar Economic Development Commission extends broadband contract with Schmoll

The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission extended a contract with Connie Schmoll, who has been working on several broadband projects for the county over the past seven months.

Connie Schmoll, broadband contractor with Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission
Connie Schmoll has been working with Kandiyohi County on broadband projects since May 2021. The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, extended her contract another three months.
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo
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WILLMAR — With broadband expansion opportunities continuing to be made available for communities in Kandiyohi County, Connie Schmoll, who has been working on a contract basis for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission since May 2021, doesn't want to leave her job undone.

"It has been my honor and privilege to continue working on broadband," Schmoll said. "It is a necessary infrastructure and it is needed to continue economic development."

The EDC's Joint Operations Board agreed at its meeting Thursday to extend Schmoll's contract for an additional three months, until the end of March. The contract extension will cost the EDC approximately $9,100.

"I think this is worth every dime," said Aaron Backman, EDC executive director.

Schmoll, who was the EDC's business development manager until her retirement in May 2021, has seen the workload connected to broadband grow over the past seven months.

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"My three projects have turned into 10 projects," Schmoll said.

The projects, worth millions of dollars, could bring high-speed broadband, most of it through brand-new fiber optics networks, to hundreds of properties across the county. These projects include a Federated Telephone Company fiber project in Arctander, Dovre, Mamre and St. Johns townships; the Arvig fiber project in Prinsburg ; and five Charter projects in New London, Burbank, Dovre and Willmar townships.

Funding for these projects is coming from a variety of sources, including bonding and monies from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Schmoll has also been working on obtaining grant funds to help pay for some of the projects.

A state Border to Border broadband grant will be pursued for the four-township Federated project. Paperwork has also been submitted for a National Telecommunications and Information Administration grant for a seven-township project. That national grant would take the four-township Federated project and add Colfax, Lake Andrew and Norway townships to it. The county is now just waiting to hear if the county will receive the grant of more than $28 million. For either version of those projects to move forward, grant money is essential.

A new grant opportunity from the U.S. Department of Agriculture could fund 100% of the cost for a new project that would bring high-speed broadband to rural areas in eastern Kandiyohi County. The application for this opportunity is due in February, just another reason why both Schmoll and the EDC felt it important to extend Schmoll's contract.

"There are some major grants coming in the near future," Schmoll said. "It is a crucial time to continue our efforts."

More Kandiyohi County broadband coverage:
The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution supporting Vibrant Broadband of Litchfield's application for a USDA ReConnect grant. If awarded, the grant would bring high-speed broadband to not only townships in Meeker County, but nine townships in Kandiyohi County.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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