3/2/2017 4:35:00 PM Special taxing
district ok'd for
Sunrise Township, the county and the state have been working towards improving Internet service in the township by extending CenturyLink broadband fiber optic service.
The three-way partnership has carried this effort most of the way towards an Internet expansion involving only CenturyLink-served parcels in Sunrise Township.
The goal is to meet a demand, demonstrated in a petition put to the township board, calling for Internet access.
Petitioners called on the Township Board to create a subordinate service district (SSD) which is a taxing territory allowed to collect costs for the Internet project by putting a fee onto benefitting properties’ tax statement.
The supervisors voted unanimously last week, in front of a crowd of over 100 citizens inside the one-room schoolhouse town hall, to establish the SSD.
This vote also authorized the township to provide outside monies to CenturyLink as well as a notice to be published in this paper.
Upon publication a reverse referendum window opens for 60 days.
During these 60 days citizens can collect a number of signatures of registered voters and demand that township officials hold an election on the SSD.
After the 60 day timeframe-- assuming no petition is received calling for a vote of the people-- Sunrise Township can continue this process.
Sunrise supervisors feel this Internet project is feasible due to the MN Dept. of Employment and Economic Development awarding the township a grant of $1.7 million. County EDA/HRA Director Nancy Hoffman submitted the successful grant application on behalf of the township.
The Internet project total is estimated at $2.4 million.
Todd Hagen, for Ehlers & Associates public financing consultants, told the crowd squished into the town hall February 23, that it is “very special” for a township to win a large grant like Sunrise is set to use.
The crowd was also advised that if a reverse referendum request is put together, the grant is in jeopardy. The timeframe for having a dedicated use for the money is the end of the state’s fiscal year, which is June 30. The 60 days will end in late April and the citizens were told it would be impossible under state election timeframes to put together the ballot, hold the referendum and get engineering plans completed by July 1.
Sunrise Township Board Supervisor Carl ‘Pete’ Johnson added that the supervisors have lowered the township budget every year, except last year when county turnback roads had to be adjusted for. He said citizens will learn at the March 14 annual meeting, that the supervisors also propose for 2018 to maintain the budget at its current amount. There were questions from the audience about specific details of the CenturyLink Internet packages. ~ Costs were described as equivalent to those charged to a customer in Minneapolis. Lowest service is 40 megabit per second to one gig. ~ There will be no requirement to also have a “landline” phone service. ~ No television is part of the CenturyLink package. ~ Tax impact is estimated at $118 per year for a 10-year debt payoff. The life of bond debt has not been officially adopted yet and property owners are always able to pay off their portion of the assessment in a lump sum. This is based on 664 households in the SSD. The township looked at all the CenturyLink service area parcels to determine if they are attached to a residence, because many parcels in Sunrise are undeveloped, and the subordinate service district (SSD) only taxes parcels with homes, the audience was told. Likewise, all those petitioning for the SSD had their home addresses verified as being within the affected area. ~ In addition to the $118 approximate tax per year that ALL district property owners will pitch in-- customers will pay for whatever level of Internet they subscribe with CenturyLink for. The subordinate service district charge funds the infrastructure build-out, including up to 700 feet of extension on a parcel. For example, one resident asked about a 1,200 foot driveway and what the property owner has to fund after 700 feet. There was no immediate information available at last week’s hearing.
There’s also an estimated $80 in fees for installation and activation.
Resident Steve Nelson commented that the people promoting the petition for the subordinate service district were “kind of deceiving” on costs, with the way the petition was presented. A woman shouted from the back of the seating area that she would like her property eliminated from the SSD. She said she simply can not afford Internet or the flat tax fee. The supervisors told the woman the hearing is to set the boundary of the district based on CenturyLink service area and it wasn’t up to the supervisors to pick and choose the included properties.
Sunrise Township annual meeting is March 14. Voters will go to the town hall to cast ballots for two supervisor seats and one planning commission post. The annual meeting is called to order after 8 p.m. when polling closes.