COVID emergency declared; Appeals hearings cancelled

 

Fresh off receiving $510,000 to expand broadband internet service earlier this year, the City of Scandia is looking for more.

The Scandia City Council last week agreed to provide a letter of support to Midco Communications encouraging the company to apply for a second Minnesota Border-To-Border Broadband Development Grant. The council also earmarked $165,000 in capital improvement dollars for its 2021 budget as the local matching portion, should the grant be approved.

“We need to keep the momentum going,” said council member Patti Ray, who serves on the city’s Internet Action Committee. “Good internet service is as important as good roads and good schools to our city.”

The council has been considering ways to expand broadband service in the city for the better part of three years. After exploring several options, including a fiber-to-the-premises proposal that was ultimately deemed too expensive, the city partnered with Midco late last year in seeking and receiving the grant.

“I think this is a winning formula,” council member Steve Kronmiller said. “Midco has been a good partner and there are lots of opportunities (for expansion).”

Robert Wilmers, an Internet Action Committee member, agreed.

“It makes a lot of sense to work with them and not miss a beat,” he said.

COVID plans

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the council approved a resolution declaring a local emergency. The resolution enables the city’s emergency manager, Fire Chief Mike Hinz, to take actions or make certain purchases, such as buying masks or other supplies, which would normally need council approval. The resolution also allows the city to be eligible for disaster relief funding, should it be needed.

The resolution will stay in effect until the council or mayor rescind it.

Hinz noted the fire department continues to monitor daily the recommendations of county and state health officials in planning for the pandemic. The department currently has adequate medical supplies on hand, he said.

“If this goes very poorly, we will deplete our supply rapidly,” Hinz said.  

Noting the inability to hold in-person meetings and the infeasibility of hearing appeals in an online format, the council also agreed to cancel its Board of Appeals and Equalization meeting scheduled for April 6. The decision effectively leaves the appeals to be heard by Washington County for this year.

Scandia residents who wish to appeal their land valuations may do so by calling the Washington County Taxes Department at (651) 430-6175.

Heritage Alliance lease

The council reviewed a final draft of a lease agreement with the Scandia Heritage Alliance for the south T-ball field site, on which the group has proposed to re-erect the former Hilltop Water Company barn. The lease will be on the city’s April 21 agenda for formal approval.

The Heritage Alliance has asked the city for a 99-year lease on the site for $1 per year and has proposed a five-year period in which the group can prove its ability to fundraise and write grants for the project.

Heritage Alliance representatives reported soil borings recently completed at the site indicate it will be suitable for construction.

“It looks like the site works just fine,” said John Herman, an attorney and a volunteer for the group.

Other business

• The council declined to purchase a new tractor and ditch mowing attachments, citing a possible decline in the economy. The city will push the purchase out into 2021 and keep its existing ditch mowing unit in operation for another year, which might cost up to $10,000 depending on maintenance and trade-in value. The city had budgeted $131,000 for the new tractor. The vote was 4-1 in favor, with councilman Jerry Cusick objecting to the deferment.

• The council agreed to spend up to $7,000 to improve the city’s computer network infrastructure and security.

The next Scandia City Council meeting will be held April 21 at 7 p.m.

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