Kandiyohi County planning to extend broadband to three more townships
With the help of state and federal funds, homes and businesses in Lake Elizabeth, East Lake Lillian and Harrison townships in Kandiyohi County could have broadband connections within two years.
WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County is seeking grants to extend broadband service to three more townships.
The County Board voted Tuesday morning to use nearly $400,000 of federal funds held by the county and to seek other funding to provide high-speed broadband to addresses in Lake Elizabeth, East Lake Lillian and Harrison townships.
Mark Boeschen, broadband chair for the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission , described the two projects.
Funding would come from the county’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding and from the state’s Border-to-Border program. Vibrant Broadband from Meeker County, which will provide service to the area, will pay a portion, as will the townships.
For Lake Elizabeth and East Lake Lillian townships, the county will be seeking a 75% grant from the Border-to-Border program, a total of $1.4 million. The county’s federal funding would be $148,000 on the project. In addition, $282,000 would come from Vibrant, $20,800 from Lake Elizabeth and $19,000 from East Lake Lillian. In all, the project would total $1.9 million.
For Harrison Township, the county will seek a 45% grant from the Border-to-Border fund for the nearly $1.2 million project. The Border-to-Border grant sought would be $533,000, with Vibrant contributing $355,000. County funds would total $252,000, and $44,000 would come from Harrison Township.
In response to a question from Chairman Roger Imdieke, Boeschen said he believed the projects would fully serve the three townships, though there is some question about portions around Diamond Lake.
Boeschen asked for letters of support for the projects from people who live there or “if you’re an employer with employees living there.” Letters can be sent to the EDC, he said.
Construction would not start unless the grants are approved. The projects would have to be completed within two years, he said.
The board in other action Tuesday voted to use the financial assets of KandiWorks to establish a fund with the Willmar Area Community Foundation.
KandiWorks, which served people with developmental disabilities, closed in 2020 after several years of financial difficulties.
The remaining assets of KandiWorks, including the sale of its facilities, was transferred to Kandiyohi County.
A county committee studied how to handle the nearly $600,000. County officials had asked them to find ways to distribute the funds to serve the same population KandiWorks had served.
The committee met to discuss the needs in the community and how to address them, said Jennie Lippert, the county’s health and human services director.
The group wanted to see the money used in areas of training, respite care and helping individuals, Lippert said. The committee suggested the foundation, with its history of handling grant applications and fiscal responsibility.
“The group really felt we needed a fair process that would allow everybody to obtain funds if they met the criteria,” Lippert said.
The committee suggested two options. One was to give the money entirely to the foundation with $150,000 to be used in 2023 and the remaining $442,235 to be used to provide grants in two rounds per year. The second option was to give $300,000 to the foundation and keep the remainder with the county until the program could be reviewed after one year.
Sara Carlson, executive director of the foundation, told the board the fund would focus on people with special needs. “We are familiar with the needs, because the pent-up demand has come to us,” she said.
She suggested the fund could also be a vehicle for parents or others who want to leave money for the disability community.
After a long discussion, Commissioner George “Corky” Berg made a motion to place the full amount with the foundation this year. It passed unanimously.