Concerns about the impact of a new housing development on internet service were raised at the Feb. 3 township board meeting. Punctuating the point, both the town clerk and the board chair momentarily lost access to the call during the Zoom meeting.
Board chair John Adams said that the township had received $150,000 in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds from the federal government in 2021. Another $150,000 is expected in 2022. “How best to spend that money will be a topic for the next few months. We have two years to spend it.
“Expansion of the internet is definitely on the list. So far, it’s been difficult to get anyone interested in putting technology out here. [Providers say] ‘There are not enough of you. You aren’t poor and in need.’ We are, evidently, too rich to have fast internet.”
Town planner Nate Sparks said, “There have been times in the recent past where a neighborhood reached out to the township to say they wanted to get internet service from the cable provider the township has an agreement with.
“They were able to get their neighbors to come together to pay for improvements. Two neighborhoods have done that so far. Neighbors all split the cost and got internet extended to them. That won’t work in large-lot areas, but in some places that is an option. The cable company has been receptive to these requests.”
County commissioner Fran Miron weighed in: “With respect to broadband, the county has set aside $2 million from its ARPA funds for matching grants for broadband improvements in some areas of the county. Scandia has shown interest, and Afton. We hope more communities will have an opportunity to use these funds.”
Amendment to Animal Control Ordinance
Sparks reported that the facility where the township takes dogs to be impounded will no longer collect the fees the township levies. Township ordinances regarding dangerous dogs (and wild animals kept as pets) were revised to respond to that change, and additional changes were made.
• An owner may request a hearing if their dog has been declared dangerous or potentially dangerous. If the hearing officer does not find in favor of the dog owner, the owner will be charged a hearing fee.
• The owner shall pay an impound and redemption fee to the township, plus costs incurred by the township’s animal warden or control officer. The impound and redemption fee will increase in amount for each violation within a 5-year period from the initial impoundment.
• All costs not paid by the owner within 30 days will be assessed, with interest and an administrative fee. This can be charged to the owner’s property taxes.
• Charges may be appealed to the Township board by submitting the grounds for appeal, in writing, to the Township clerk.
The resolution to change the township ordinance was approved but board members asked for a clearer explanation of the appeals process in future ordinance revisions.
Conservancy District Moratorium
A Pioneer Press article drew comments from residents, according to planning commission chair John Arnason. The news story reported that the Township’s moratorium on changes to land usage within conservancy districts had scuttled a Washington County/Science Museum conservation project involving Warner and Wilder land.
Adams said he was not prepared to address the issue in detail. “Some claim it stopped (the project) in its tracks. Some claim there is no reason they can’t sell.” He reiterated that the purpose of the moratorium was to bring the conservancy code into alignment with the township’s Comprehensive Plan.
Commissioner Miron said the county understands the goal of the moratorium and has put its work on hold until they get land use direction from the township.
Preparing for 2022 Road Projects
The board approved seeking bids now for street sweeping, storm drain and culvert cleaning, and gravel for 2022 roadwork. Street sweeping must be done early in the spring to avoid sediment going into culverts and drains.
Resident Ted Nesse expressed surprise that the budget for calcium chloride ($146,170) was six times the budget for gravel ($25,000). Adams explained that gravel is applied to select roads each year, but calcium chloride is applied to all gravel roads in the township.
Ness asked that a section of Ostlund Trail once again be excluded from calcium chloride treatment. Adams said it was difficult to deal with roads individually. “Calcium chloride does save roads. It keeps the fines on the road. When you travel down a gravel road and you see plumes of dust behind you, that’s the road blowing away.”
Board member John Pazlar said, “We did sunset one treatment for that road pending further study…. We’ve talked about doing some further engineering. Something is going on there, maybe clay in the sub-base…. It would probably make sense to skip that stretch … [then] spend time this spring getting it regraded and see how it performs with better drainage.”
Township Gives Support to County’s
Plan for Norell Avenue N.
The board approved a resolution supporting the county’s plan for roadway, curb and drainage improvements along Norell Avenue N. The most significant work to be done is installation of a retaining wall with curb, gutter and guardrail near Warner Pond. This work will ensure integrity of the road at that location. A dedicated right turn lane will be added from County Road 4 onto County Road 3.
Through its public engagement process, the county learned that lands and waters adjacent to Norell Avenue between County Road 7 and County Road 4 provided critical habitat for rare and state-listed wildlife species. Residents were outspoken in their support for protecting these unique scenic and natural resources. Therefore, the roadway will stay in the same footprint.
• Special Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 8, 1 p.m. to review and approve the 2023 levy.
• The board approved a right of way permit for a fat tire bike race to be held on Saturday, Feb. 26, pending receipt of payment.
• The board accepted withdrawal of a lot averaging subdivision concept plan for the Arcola Tree Farm development. The developer has submitted an open space plan for consideration.
• The board approved a resolution to conduct the township’s annual meeting on Zoom.
•The board approved a resolution to appoint Jacqueline Hogan, Sharon Mallman, Jeanne Matlock, Donna Michael, Walter Peterson, Linda Tibbetts, and Robert Swinehart as election judges for May Township.
• The board approved submission of a state-required pay equity implementation form.