April 7, 2023 at 11:38 a.m.
Chisago City encouraged to seek county matching grant for high-speed internet
Council heard a presentation last week by Sam Ashkar of Hometown Internet, LLC, regarding its plan to deliver high-speed, broadband, wireless internet services to unserved and underserved residential and commercial subscribers in the area. The goal is to increase internet speed at a reasonable cost for local customers.
Hometown Internet partners with Ceragon Networks to provide wireless internet systems that do not use fiber optic line. Instead, their system uses Citizens Broadband Radio Service Devices (CBSDs) mounted on existing towers as base station/access points. These devices then communicate with cloud services known as Spectrum Access System (SAS).
Hometown and Ceragon plan to connect equipment mounted on numerous existing tower locations in Chisago County to create one wireless internet system. Ashkar urged Chisago City to apply for a Chisago County American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant requiring the city to match $100,000 of its own ARPA funds with $100,000 of Chisago County’s ARPA funds. The money would go to Hometown Internet to provide services to Chisago City. Ashkar said that funding would make it possible to provide 300 underserved subscribers in Chisago City with high speed internet within one year.
Chisago City’s $318,000 in ARPA funds must be committed by the end of 2024, council was advised.
Council Member Marie Rivers, owner of Sven’s Shoes, reported that she recently switched to Hometown Internet. She said the increased internet speed was impressive and no digging or burying of wires was involved.
If the grant project moves forward, Hometown promises no increase in service and installation fees for three years. Individual service fees could be scaled depending on the speed of internet. The council listened to the Hometown Internet presentation but took no action at the meeting.
In other business, the council:
- set a special council meeting for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 11 to reapprove the annexation agreement with Lent Township due to an omission in the legal description.
- approved the plans and specifications and authorized advertising for bids for the 2023 street and utility improvement project. Bids for the $997,920 project will be opened April 19 to be awarded at the April 25 council meeting. The council also ordered preparation of final assessments based on the engineer’s cost estimates and set the date of the final assessment hearing for April 25.
This year’s work will include Railroad Ave. from Old Towne Rd. to East St., Walmark St. from Stinson Ave. to Railroad Ave., and Bloom and East streets from Stinson to Highway 8. Finance Officer Cassie Gemuenden said the city is offering affected property owners a 15-year assessment term at 3.5 percent interest. After the April 25 public hearing, the amount of the assessments cannot be increased, but can be decreased.
-- learned that the city’s new fire pumper truck is ready. Rosenbauer Minnesota will feature Chisago City’s truck at the FDIC International, the largest fire industry convention in the world, being held this month in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rosenbauer will pay for conference registration of $2,500 for four Chisago City firefighters to attend. The fire department will pay for airfare for four and two hotel rooms at a projected cost of $$4,800.
In addition to the conference costs, Fire Chief Zach Reed requested $11,367 for infrared cameras to replace existing cameras that no longer function, and $7,510 is needed to cover a negative balance in the fire equipment fund. To cover these expenses, the council agreed to use $23,877 from $118,778 that has been set aside to fund a second new firetruck in the future. The department recommended it will borrow money from itself to pay for the new firetruck with a 15-year interfund loan at zero percent interest, rather than taking out a bank note at 4.5 percent interest,
The total cost of the new truck is $763,983. The city previously paid for the $328,644 chassis from existing funds. The remaining $435,339 will be paid with annual payments drawn from undesignated capital funds which currently total $632,262.
The city has been levying $30,000 a year toward fire truck replacement. It will increase that levy to $35,000 in 2024 and $40,000 in 2025 in order to cover the internal loan payment while still putting money in reserve for a second future truck. Borrowing from itself means the city can also choose to pay off the loan early without penalty if it chooses.
- agreed to use $500 from Charitable Gambling Fund 29 for a police recognition event. This brings the total expenditure from the gambling funds this year to $16,700. The gambling fund balance is currently $39,000. Fund 29 represents 10 percent of the proceeds from charitable gambling conducted under city permit,by the Lakes Area Recreation Association and Chisago City Fire Relief.
- heard a presentation by Linda Mattson, executive director for Lakes Center for Youth and Families, and Sheriff Brandon Thyen thanking the city for its continued support. The Center offers enrichment, intervention and counseling programs for young people and families in Chisago and Washington counties.