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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Towns Association Urges Broadband Connections

Issue Date: April 26, 2017

Two new industries may be opening soon in Marinette County. Ann Hartnell, Executive Director of the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry (MCABI) reported at the local Wisconsin Towns Association quarterly unit meeting held in Wausaukee Town hall on Thursday, April 20.

She said one of the possible new companies would be in Pembine and one in the southern part of the county. One would create 50 to 60 new jobs, and the other 10 to 12 jobs.

Hartnell said she has been seeing a lot of interest and activity along the Hwy. 141 corridor through the county. The Village of Pound has an industrial park now, and they have "Gold Shovel" certification, which helps market their site. She said all this information is on the MCABI website.

Hartnell also spoke on the importance of Broadband internet service for economic growth, and said CenturyTel has received federal grants to build a system that eventually will serve 95 percent of Marinette County. Se said areas with the greatest number of permanent residents will be the first to get service, and those with high numbers of vacation homes will be last. The first round of state grant applications for this year i over, but another round will be coming up in September, and towns can apply for 50/50 matching funds from the state. If they do not get funding this year thy can try again next year.

Hartnell said the City of Peshtigo received a grant last year for improved Internet/broadband connections in its industrial park, and their build out has started.

CenturyTel has said with the low population density in Marinette County, without grants there are not enough customers in the for them to provide the service.

The Lake Hilbert area, which comprises a small sparsely settled northwest corner of Marinette County, will get high speed WiFi this year because of a partnership between Florence and Marinette counties, and MCABI is helping Florence County with this.County Board Chair Mark Anderson urged towns to apply for the broadband grants, and quoted State Rep. Jeff Mursau's advice that, "with broadband, the squeaky wheel is going to get the grease."

"It's a proven fact that if there isn't broadband, we are not going to keep the young people here." There has been much concern that talented, educated young people whose services are much needed by area businesses have been choosing to leave the county, and high speed internet is one thing they will not do without.

Anderson said Gov. Scott Walker is looking at eliminating the Forestry Mill Tax from the state budget, an this tax has been providing counties with 30 cents for each forest are since 1939. If the tax is eliminated the cost to Marinette County will be very high.

Anderson said state levy limits allow county property tax to grow only in an amount equal to new construction. Since that growth has only been eight-tenths of a percent for each of the last three years, the county has been allowed to increase its property tax levy by only eight tenths of a percent, despite the rate of inflation. "That means they were allowed only a $120,000 increase in a $58 million budget.

"If you have any economic development ideas, please let us know," Anderson urged the town leaders. "We need to promote development."

The meeting was chaired by Holmes, since the previous chair was defeated in the last election, leaving the post vacant. Holmes called for nominees for chair, and Town of Beaver Chair Dave Bedora, nominated Wagner Chair Lynn M. Hickey. There were no other nominees.

Bedora attempted to nominate Jess Magerowski for the secretary/treasurer position, but was told she also had lost her bid for reelection as a Town of Middle Inlet supervisor and is no longer eligible.

Holmes then nominated Bedora who has handled that job for many years, and there were no other nominees.

Both Bedora and Hickey were elected by unanimous vote.

Holmes said if any towns are interested in providing lunch, the unit would meet there. Hickey said Wagner is off the beaten path, but offered to help someone else host. The next meeting will be Thursday, June 15, possibly at the Middle Inlet Town Hall.

There were 18 members from nine towns at the meeting, plus Sheriff Jerry Sauve, Anderson, county Administrator John LeFebvre, Hartnell, Coleman/Pound Municipal Judge Clifford Patz, Rick Rickaby, who currently is serving as co- commissioner for Marinette County Highway Department, and a news media representative.


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