North Branch Mayor Jim Swenson shared some exciting news about increased high speed internet access for more areas in and around the city during the North Branch City Council meeting April 27.
“I would like to personally thank the broadband committee and city staff for their ongoing hard work and dedication to make this project come to fruition,” Swenson said. “It’s been a long process, but one worth the ride, as access to high speed internet is a true game-changer for our community.”
In his proclamation declaring Friday, April 30, as High Speed Internet Day in the city of North Branch, Swenson stated the benefits of high speed internet access:
“Whereas, access to city-wide high speed internet opens up our city to more business owners and entrepreneurs, allowing them to work from home, set up home-based businesses and additionally, allows our residents to use e-commerce;
“Whereas all students need high speed internet to complete homework, distance learn, apply for secondary educational opportunities, apply for jobs, and maintain friendships;
“Whereas high speed internet provides an option for residents to access a reliable internet service that is not weather dependent, nor bandwidth inhibited;
“Whereas high speed internet allows residents access to health care via telehealth virtual visits and access to their medical records via internet portals;
“Whereas all North Branch residents now have access to information technology that is part of the 21st-century infrastructure;
“Whereas all residents, businesses, entrepreneurs, and school children need high speed internet so they can work, live, learn, and play.”
North Branch City Administrator Renae Fry said the federal government is distributing another round of COVID-19 relief fund grants.
“That is intended to address a variety of priorities, including dealing with some of the COVID-19 fallout, possibly dealing with tourism,” Fry said. “We don’t have all the particulars about it yet. But it did appear that maybe a federal EDA (Economic Development Authority) grant might be something that the city could benefit from, because one of our challenges, obviously, is to come up with financial resources to help with the development of infrastructure in the industrial park.”
Fry has discovered other possible reasons for qualifying to receive the relief fund, she said. For example, there is a potential of a new business that may be adding around 100 jobs that could use the money to “reassure a supply chain issue,” Fry said.
“We talked a little bit about the road infrastructure that’s going to be needed for this project; we would want to connect Fletcher from the south end of the north end,” she said, adding the project could cost around $2 million.
Fry said the timetable of getting the street project started would be in fall. The list of eligible applicants is off the charts for the last round of money; in other words, for every five applicants one receives relief funds, Fry learned. Fry was advised to be proactive in applying for the fund whenever it is available for the city, she said.
“So we’re here this evening to let you know that you’re probably going to see some activity on fast-track coming out of staff,” Fry explained to the council. “So we will be bringing a request for proposals to you at your May 11 meeting, because all of the ... funding opportunities do require that you go through a competitive bidding process for your engineering services.”
As Fry continues to complete the application process for obtaining some relief money, she said it is important that the engineering work happens soon and the city invests some money in the project. Fry explained that the EDA requires that the council adopt a resolution to pay the match, which could be 80% EDA contribution and 20% city.