Murray County endorses broadband proposal

SLAYTON — The Murray County Board gave a much needed boost Tuesday to a regional broadband telecommunications access proposal.

The board committed up to $200,000, which could be taken from the county’s Economic Development Authority revolving loan fund, to a grant application prepared by Lismore Coop Telephone Company of Lismore.

The funding will open the door to potential grant dollars that would substantially improve internet options for subscribers in parts of southwest Minnesota. Murray County EDA Director Amy Rucker recommended the allocation, which is contingent on the company receiving its grant.

“They have a $200,000 funding gap,” Rucker said. “We can fill that and still have enough left over to do what’s needed with our revolving loans.”

The resolution approved by the board stipulates that the $200,000 should be put toward the broadband proposal provided that the county replenishes its revolving loan fund with its planned 2019 appropriation of $25,000.

Commissioner James Jens, one of two board members who also serves on the EDA board, noted that the stipulation only calls for the county to follow through on its planned 2019 budget commitment. A motion to financially support the broadband expansion effort was approved unanimously.

“Hopefully it will get used for broadband,” said Commissioner Dave Thiner. “They’d have to get a grant to spend it. It could be a good opportunity to offer broadband in more of the region.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a conditional use permit amendment to allow a higher number of vehicles to be stored at a salvage business in Section 28, Belfast Township near Fulda.

Heath Mitchell applied for the amendment, which will allow him to store up to 250 vehicles instead of the maximum of 20 that was approved in 2013.

Mitchell already has about 250 cars on the property, but hasn’t been found in violation of his permit. Up until now, he hasn’t turned in annual reports that would include total numbers of cars. The county hasn’t, however, raised any issue about reports not submitted and hasn’t up to now made any spot checks.

“It’s his responsibility to comply with terms in the permit, but we haven’t enforced the vehicle limit,” said county zoning administrator Jean Christoffels. “We’re increasing it what’s there now with the understanding that steps will be taken to sell off the inventory.”

Mitchell said he’s willing to take a loss up to a point in order to keep the inventory limited. He sells car components for scrap metal, replacement parts, and other repurposing.

He said entire vehicles are sometimes sold as is, but always with the stipulation that they are being sold as parts vehicles only rather than once again becoming driveable.

“I have a family and pets, and I run a clean place,” Mitchell said. “I plan to move the inventory out as much as possible.”

He added that he’d like to find out in the upcoming months if he can meet his business goals through dismantling and sales, and eventually with a combination of sales along with accepting more salvage cars.

The board approved the conditional use amendment provided that a report is turned in to the county in the next few weeks. Additional reports will be compiled annually. It was noted in discussion that visits to the site this summer have indicated that it’s carefully maintained.

“We don’t want to chase him out of the county,” said Commissioner Jim Kluis. “It’s good to have a business that finds ways to reuse car parts. He’s doing something worthwhile.”

The board also gave its permission for Minnesota Department of Natural Resources boat inspections during a fall fishing event planned this month at Lake Sarah.

The inspections are designed to detect invasive aquatic species, including different kinds of vegetation as well as creatures such as the zebra mussel. Lake Sarah is one of the Minnesota lakes where zebra mussel has been detected in the past year, which raises a concern for fish species and water quality.

Board members asked County Parks Manager Justin Hoffmann to communicate with fishing tournament organizers, who can then inform participants of the planned inspections.

“It will help to prevent the spread of invasive species,” Hoffmann said. “They usually inspect boats that are going both into a lake and out of it.”