11/21/2020 2:14:00 PM Wireless tower internet gets permit OK'd -- minus one disputed site
The North Branch City Council had one member in city hall for the council meeting last week and two council persons participating virtually, with one seat still vacant and Joel McPherson absent. The vote was 3-0 to approve permits needed for improving North Branch internet using strategically placed signal towers. The vote by Council members Kathy Blomquist and Kelly Neider, along with Mayor Jim Swenson, authorized Conditional Use Permits for two of the three towers recommended by planning commissioners (story Press Nov. 5)
A third tower in the northwest area of North Branch was eliminated from the CUP application-- presumably due to threatened litigation.
The city will look for an “alternative spot” to place a third internet transmission tower, staff told council. “For now” the location at Flink Avenue and 412th is not part of the towers installation grid, said City Administrator Renae Fry.
The towers are 120 feet tall and needed the CUP because the city ordinance stops at 75 feet.
The two are going in the south end of town east of Highway 30, at 366th, towards the border with Lent Township and the other approved tower is on the east side of County Road 14 at 367th. At a brief special session November 9 council received the sole bid for erecting the service, from PCS Technology, for $464,870. The company can have the system installed by January 29, 2021, the bid promised. North Branch had hoped to be able to use its CARES Act monies for this project and earlier set-aside $400,000 for broadband improvements, but guidelines and regulations did not allows this capital project as a qualifying expense. North Branch instead will apply $400,000 of CARES Act allotment to public safety’s extraordinary expenditures due to the coronavirus situation. City funds that would have gone to covering this will now be available for the wireless internet work.
North Branch internet customers will use a receiver on their home to capture the enhanced transmission relayed by these towers as part of a “point to multi-point wireless” system. Along with the stand alone ladder towers, the city has devices for co-location at two water towers, an existing siren and the state transportation department’s tower west of the freeway.
The other main agenda item was to ratify the CARES Act distribution the city is facilitating. This funding is for applicants impacted by COVID-19 precautionary expenses and health related unbudgeted costs. The council had OK’d the applications for funding and last week everything was finalized and the $800,000 plus that North Branch received was completely either spent by the city or dispersed to qualifying organizations and businesses. (Story on distribution of CARES Act grants in Press November 5.) The recommendation to not provide M Health Fairview and Lakes and Pines Community Action Council their requested grants remained in effect. The two have gotten funding from elsewhere and weren’t high priority in the council’s view.