News Categories: General News

16 Jun
By: Ruth Simpson 0

Broadband services in rural America is focus of listening session June 19 in Minnesota

Broadband providers and the people who use—or would like to be able to use—those services in rural America are invited to offer their perspectives on enhancing e-connectivity at a listening session June 19.

The Upper Midwest Listening Session of the project, What’s on the Horizon for E-Connectivity in Rural America, will be 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. June 19 at the Archery Building on the grounds of the Rice County Fairgrounds, Faribault, Minn. A live webcast of the session will be available and can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/user/thefarmfoundation/live.

There is no charge to participate in this session but reservations are requested and can be made by sending an email to Michelle@farmfoundation.org.

“We want to hear from the people who live and work with limited broadband access today, as well as those who have innovative solutions for expanding the availability of those services,” says Constance Cullman, president of Farm Foundation.

Farm Foundation is partnering with CoBank, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to organize broadband listening sessions across the country. The intent is to gather insights into the tools that are needed to improve e-connectivity to enhance the economic health of rural America.

Bill Esbeck, executive director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, will join Steve Fenske, attorney and government relations Manager with the Minnesota Association of Townships, to discuss e-connectivity needs in the Upper Midwest.

“Access to broadband is critically important for the economic viability and sustainability of rural communities. This listening session is a great opportunity to share the accomplishments of small, rural broadband providers across Wisconsin. The rural providers I represent are continuously reinvesting in their broadband networks and closing the digital divide,” said Esbeck. “Conversations like these among diverse stakeholders allow us to develop a greater understanding of the issues, explore solutions and showcase what has worked so these efforts may be replicated to the benefit of rural communities across the nation.”

Innovative solutions now being used to deliver broadband will be the topic for three Minnesota officials: Kristi Westbrock, CEO/General Manager of Consolidated Telephone Company of Brainerd, Minn.; Danna MacKenzie, Executive Director of the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development; and Brian Zelenak, CEO of the Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative, Aitkin, Minn.

“Enhancing the quality of life throughout our communities is our priority,” said Zelenak. “Broadband spurs economic growth in rural communities and opens the door to modern education, healthcare and telework options. We’re proud to help modernize our local economy by making broadband internet a possibility for our members.”

“With these experts and the other rural stakeholders attending, we want to identify the challenges rural communities now face in providing quality broadband services, as well as the innovative options being used to address those challenges,” says Cullman.

The June 19 listening session is part of a series planned across the country. A report of the feedback from those sessions will be provided to federal and state public and private leaders to better inform their decisions regarding improvements to, and expansion of, broadband services in rural America.

Dates and locations of future listening sessions will be announced by the end of June.

Article appeared in the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal, June 14, 2018.

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06 Jun
By: Ruth Simpson 0

District Director Elections

This August, four director districts are having elections, District 3, District 8, District 10, and District 13. Townships Officers wanting to run for election in each district “must file for the position or be nominated by a voting member of the Association from the respective district at the district meeting.” MAT Bylaws, Art. VI, sec. 5.

To file for the position of Director a candidate must use the Affidavit of Filing Form provided by the MAT office. The completed form must be sent to the Minnesota Association of Townships office. The completed filing form can be emailed (info@mntownships.org), faxed (763-497-3361), or mailed to the St. Michael office (P.O. Box 267, St. Michael, MN 55376). The filing form must be received in the Association office within the prescribed 30-day period otherwise the filing will not be considered valid. (“FILINGS SHALL OCCUR NOT LESS THAN SIXTY (60) DAYS OR MORE THAN NINETY (90) DAYS PRIOR TO THE DISTRICT ELECTION.” MAT By-laws, Art.VI, sec. 5.) Below are the acceptable filing dates for the District Director positions up for election in 2018:
District 3 – May 8- June 7
District 8 – May 24- June 23
District 13 – May 29-June 28
District 10 – June 1 – July 1

A candidate is permitted to withdraw from the election if the withdrawal is made in writing and is received in the Association office at least five business days before the scheduled election for the District in which the candidate is a township officer.

Questions regarding the filing process should be directed to Colleen Klatke at MAT, 1-800-228-0296.

All districts holding director elections will, in addition to the candidate ballot filers, accept nominations from the floor.

Full Schedule of District Meetings by date in 2018

Post expires at 1:59am on Monday July 2nd, 2018

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05 Jun
By: Ruth Simpson 0

Solar Survey

What do you think about solar energy and solar development in Minnesota?

Let MN Solar Pathways know in this short survey

The rapidly declining costs of solar energy have helped lead to a solar development boom in Minnesota. Solar energy is Minnesota’s most abundant energy resource, and is readily available in every township in the state. Minnesota’s statutory goal of reaching 10% solar by 2030 will take Minnesota from 650 megawatts of solar capacity at the end of 2017 to as much as 6 gigawatts by 2030. How Minnesota reaches that goal is the focus of MN Solar Pathways, a three-year project led by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

As part of that effort the group is surveying local governments to learn what your communities think about solar energy development and the opportunities and risks and uncertainties that communities face as this new industry expands in Minnesota. Townships are starting to see solar energy development, from rooftops to solar farms, and it’s important that township input and insights be considered in this work. Please take 10 minutes to complete the survey!

Click here to take the ten minute survey:
https://umn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_0JKVblQBrss0TCl

Thank you!

The survey is being conducted through the MN Solar Pathways project led by the MN Department of Commerce. The Great Plains Institute and Clean Energy Resource Team program are leading the project on stakeholder engagement and communications. The information will be used for several purposes. First, to inform the development of a model that the Dept. of Commerce can use to evaluate different solar deployment strategies. The model needs to address a variety of stakeholder priorities/concerns/value propositions. They would like to understand the range of opinions, concerns, and opportunities seen by different local governments as solar development expands in Minnesota. Second, the survey will help them understand the most meaningful way to message findings from the modeling efforts to different audiences with different levels of knowledge about solar energy issues. Finally, they would like to know what information or technical assistance local governments need in order to address solar development issues that are arising in Minnesota.

Post expires at 11:17pm on Wednesday July 4th, 2018

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21 May
By: Steve Fenske 0

End of 2018 Regular Session

Both the House and Senate ended their Regular Sessions minutes before midnight on Sunday, after passing or re-passing nearly all the ‘major’ bills. They did it with 4 minutes left to spare. It was remarkable how quickly they passed these items because only a day before, on Saturday, the major bills were either not yet passed or had already been vetoed by the Governor. The items important to townships remained in the bills passed by the Legislature, but we now wait for the Governor to act.

The Omnibus to End All Omnibus!?! The Supplemental Budget Omnibus bill (HF 4099 / SF 3656), at over 990 pages, nicknamed the mega-omnibus, omnibus-omnibus, and omnibus-prime – contains funding and policy changes for nearly all of MAT’s legislative priorities. The bill includes:

  • $4 million for the town road account, nearly $11 million for local bridge replacement;
  • $15 million for the Broadband Grant Program;
  • $200,000 for reimbursement to local governments for costs associated with increased maintenance due to the Border-to-Border Touring Route proposed in Northern Minnesota;
  • Amendments to the MS4 (Municipal Wastewater Treatment rules) permit process that would exempt non-urbanized portions of townships that otherwise must comply with those rules.

The bill passed the House and Senate this weekend and was sent to the Governor, who promptly suggested he would veto the bill. The Governor had listed 117 items he wanted changed or removed, none of which are township-related. The GOP leadership said they addressed over 70 of those items. The good news here is that the Legislature and Governor appear to agree on the appropriations and policy changes favorable to townships. The bad news is that threat of the veto remains over unrelated items in the bill.

Bonding … Capital Improvement Bonding: There is also township transportation funding proposed in the Bonding Bill (HF 1226). A revised bonding bill was released late Sunday, which includes:

  • $35 million in undesignated Local Road Improvement Fund Grants;
  • $5 million in the Local Bridge Replacement Program;
  • $6.7 million in the Local Government Roads Wetland Replacement Program (Wetland credits fund).

Special Session – Is it really ‘special’ if it has become normal? No matter the answer to that question, we don’t know if the Governor will call a special session.

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18 May
By: Cari Alleman 0

Legislative Session 2018 – Week 13

Procrastinators Unite – sometime this weekend. The Legislature must be done by 11:59 pm on Sunday May 20. Okay, so they’re not exactly procrastinators, but legislators do seem to wait until the last minute to get the big projects done. This year is no exception.

Transportation: The proposal to constitutionally dedicate auto part sales tax revenues appears to be dead in the water (or road, in this case). The House passed HF 4437 to pose the constitutional dedication of auto part sales on the November ballot, by 76-54. This bill proposes dedicating 3.25% of the auto part sales to Townships for our road and bridges, with funding phased in between 2021 and 2024. It’s a controversial bill because it removes money from the general fund, leaving less for distribution. MAT continues to emphasize the importance of transportation infrastructure as a key to maintaining townships and bringing industry into the rural areas. The Senate’s version, SF 3837, is in the Senate rules committee, appears unlikely to pass.

The most-welcome news this week was the proposed transportation funding increases offered in the House and Senate Conference Report on SF 3656. Both the House and Senate initially earmarked $2 million for the township road account, but the Conference Report increased that to $4 million and added about $10 million for local bridge replacements. We are excited to see the $12 million increase. This comes after the previous years with little to no township transportation and bridge funding. The final days will determine if Townships come out with more transportation funding this year than last year. We will strive to have more conversations in the future with legislatures to bring insight on the condition of Township Roads and the need for additional funding.

Broadband: The Broadband Grant Fund appropriation remains at $15 million, also found in the Omnibus Supplemental Budget bill, SF 3656. The conference committee removed the carve-out for satellite service providers. MAT favored removing the carve-out because the program has been technology neutral in the past, requiring all providers to compete regardless of their preferred technology. This bill remains in conference committee and is being negotiated with the Governor and his staff.

We continue to watch the bonding bill and elections bill, both of which carry legislation and appropriations important to us.

The Legislature is scheduled to end the season on Monday May 21, but they cannot pass legislation on the final day so their work must be completed by midnight Sunday … unless they go into a special session.

 

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11 May
By: Cari Alleman 0

2018 Session Update Week 12

10 days Left of the 2018 Session! We can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Transportation: The constitutional dedication of auto part sales, HF 4437, continued its journey through the House this week, with the House Tax Committee hearing the bill this week. This bill proposes dedicating 3.25% of the auto part sales to Townships for our road and bridges. This funding would be phased in between 2021 and 2024. Several interest groups have opposed the bill because it removes funding from the general fund. MAT continues to emphasize the importance of transportation infrastructure as a key to bringing industry into the rural areas. HF 4437 is scheduled for the House floor on next week. The Senate’s version, SF 3837, is in the Senate rules committee, with the Senate waiting for passage in the House before further Senate action. Next week will be an important one to if the bill is to move forward. If it passed both the House and Senate, you will see a question on the ballot come November.

Broadband: The proposed Broadband Grant Fund appropriation of $15 million is still on track. The governor suggested $30 million to the program knowing the need and desire to have the program help grow rural areas. The $15 million is included in both the House and Senate omnibus bills, with talk of it going up. As we move into the final week of session we will be pushing to increase the fund.

 

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04 May
By: Steve Fenske 0

Legislative Update Week 11

We are in the home stretch with only two full weeks left of the regular session. It looks like they may even adjourn on time, with the last date being May 21.

Non-taxable land purchases 30-day Notification: The Omnibus Legacy Bill (HF 4167) included wording that any entity, private or public, that will purchase land using funding from the State’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, must notify the townships affected at least 30 days before the closing date. This was controversial, as representatives of DNR and some lawmakers fought to remove the notice provision. They argued the notice provision harmed private parties’ land transactions, but the provision remained because the parties’ purchases are made using State money and often the land becomes non-taxable.

Transportation: The House Capital Investment committee released its bonding bill (HF 4404), which included several township-related items. The bonding bill provided $72 million to the Local Road Improvement Fund, but that funding is distributed by a grant system in which towns must compete with other local roads. The bill provided $5,000,000 in the Local Road Wetland Replacement fund, which offsets the costs of building and maintain roads in wetlands (wetland credits).

The House and Senate Transportation bills are continuing their way through the legislative process.

Broadband: The proposed Broadband Grant Fund appropriation of $15 million survived attack on the House floor this week. The proposed amendment (SF 3656 A16) would have stripped all of the broadband funding. The amendment was not adopted, showing continued bipartisan support for the program.

Environment: The Senate Environment Committee’s proposal to exempt the non-urbanized portions of metro areas townships from the municipal stormwater rules (MS4), was included in the Senate Omnibus Bill (SF 3141).

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27 Apr
By: Steve Fenske 0

2018 Session Update Week 10

Its all coming together … there has been a lot of activity at the capitol this week as omnibus bills have been assembled and are being debated. We’ve been examining the omnibus bills and contacting legislators about the items of concern.

Transportation: The hot item in transportation this week was the constitutional amendment proposing the dedication of sales tax from auto parts to transportation purposes (HF 4437). The House Transportation Finance Committee passed the bill out of committee and referred it the Ways and Means Committee. MAT expressed support for the bill during the hearing. The Senate Transportation Committee held heard the companion bill, SF3837, on March 26 and referred it to the Taxes committee. The issue is controversial because if the constitutional amendment passed, it would permanently move money that currently goes into the General Fund into transportation funding. Opponents of the bill argue it makes it limits funding that could otherwise be used for other purposes. In short, it leaves less money in the general fund that can be distributed to the many interests seeking funding.

Annexation: Following the disappointing result in Midway Township’s annexation case, the Senate Local Government Committee held an informational hearing on Senate File 4020, which is the newest version of the bill to protect Orderly Annexation agreements. MAT credits Senator Bruce Anderson for working with us on this issue. The hearing was successful in starting a conversation among the committee members about annexation law in general. Several members, including Senators Hall, Anderson, and Relph expressed interest in continuing discussions about possible annexation law reforms.

Sealed Bids: Good news! Towns may be able to avoid the demands of sealed bidding more often because the Governor signed Session Law Chapter 107 (HF 3841) into law on Thursday. The bill increases the threshold for sealed bidding to $175,000. All other parts of the Municipal Contracting Law remain the same.

Donations to Food Shelves: The Governor sign Session Law 105 on April 25, which amends Minnesota Statute 465.039 to allow town boards to donate money to a food shelf organization.

Bill Log – Updated to 4/26/18

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26 Apr
By: Ruth Simpson 0

Free septic system and well management workshops from UMN and MDH

The University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment Program and the Minnesota Department of Health are offering FREE septic system and private well homeowner education classes across Minnesota.
The classes will cover the basics of how septic systems function, well water testing, and how to help protect your well from contamination sources. It will also provide property owners information on chemicals of emerging concern (CEC) including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and the potential impact on ground and surface water. Information on proper maintenance of both septic systems and private drinking water systems will be covered to help property owners protect their investments and the environment. A representative from the county will be present to answer any questions you may have related to the local ordinance and related programs.
Below is the list of locations and local contacts for more information:

May 9, 2018
Douglas County Lake Association
2:00pm
Douglas County Public Works
526 Willow Dr, Alexandria, MN
Contact: Pat Schultz, email: pats@co.douglas.mn.us / Phone: 320-762-3868

June 5, 2018
Lake County
6:00pm
Law Enforcement Center
613 Third Avenue, Two Harbors, MN
Contact: Emily Nelson, Email: emily.nelson@co.lake.mn.us / Phone: 651-249-5868 / Christine McCarthy, Email: christinem.mccarthy@co.lake.mn.us \ Phone: 218-834-8322
www.lakecountyswcd.org

June 6, 2018
Cook County
9:00am
Firehall
7401 Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, MN
Contact: Irene Mullen, Email: lmullen001@msn.com
cookcountycola.mnlakesandrivers.org/

June 6, 2018
Cook County
6:00pm
Grand Marias Community Center
317 W. 5th Street, Grand Marias, MN
Contact: Irene Mullen: Email: lmullen001@msn.com
cookcountycola.mnlakesandrivers.org/

June 14, 2018
Kandiyohi County
5:30pm
Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building
2200 23rd Street NE Willmar, MN
Contact: Eric VanDyken, Email: eric_v@co.kandiyohi.mn.us /
Phone: 320-905-4489 320-231-6229, ext. 5257

June 28, 2018
Itasca Waters
6:00pm
Wabana Town Hall
36463 Hunter Drive, Grand Rapids, MN
Contact: Patty Gould St. Aubin, Email: pgs@mchsi.com / Phone: 218-259-1603
itascawaters.org/

October 2, 2018
Washington County
5:30pm
Hooley Hall
12300 40th St N, Stillwater, MN
Contact: Stephanie Souter, Kati Hallerman Email: Kati.Hallermann@co.washington.mn.us / Stephanie.Souter@co.washington.mn.us / Phone: 651-430-6655
www.co.washington.mn.us/septic

November 6, 2018
Dakota County
6:00pm
Extension & Conservation Center
4100 220th Street W Ste 101, Farmington, MN
Contact: Emily Gable, Email: emily.gable@co.dakota.mn.us / Phone: 952-891-7008
www.co.dakota.mn.us/Environment/WaterQuality/SepticSystem

March 7, 2019
Blue Earth County/Nicollet County
5:30pm
Blue Earth Government Center
410 south 5th Street, Mankato, MN
Contact: Pete Otterness, Email: Pete.Otterness@co.nicollet.mn.us / Phone: 507-934-7076

Post expires at 5:56pm on Friday March 8th, 2019

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23 Apr
By: Steve Fenske 0

2018 Session Update Week 9

Here we go, straight, no chaser …

Transportation: The House and Senate Transportation Committees both passed their versions of supplemental transportation funding bills, HF 4160 and SF 3806. Both bills provide $2 million of supplemental funding to the Town Road Account. This is the same amount appropriated into the Town Road account last year.

Environment: The Legacy Funding Finance Committee heard HF 4167 on Monday 4/16, a bill that as drafted, requires DNR to provide notice 30 days before the date of closing of land acquisition, to counties. MAT worked with Representatives Torkelson and Fabian to offer an oral amendment to include townships in the 30-day notification requirement to the closing of the land acquisition.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Representative Layman and Senator Eichorn presented a new approach to the problem of non-taxable land this week. HF4412 and SF3987 would prohibit the appraised values of PILT property from dropping below the taxable value as of 2010. Currently, the PILT program holds the appraised property values at the same amount for about 5 years, but then the value is reassessed, and it often decreases, which decreases the amount of PILT paid on the property. The bill would require an additional appropriation to be effective.

Broadband: We were excited to see that both the House and Senate offered a supplemental $15 million to fund the State’s Border-to-Border Broadband program for 2019. (HF 3527 / SF 2787). The program was not funded for 2019, so this money is needed to keep the program moving forward. However, the House version of the bill was amended in committee to set-aside $750,000 of the funding for the use of satellite broadband providers. Our concern is that the program has never picked winners and losers among the different technologies. Of further concern is that the satellite providers do not have to meet the same speed goals as the other technologies and that they do not require any additional infrastructure development to deploy their technology. Instead, they must provide 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload, but unlike all other technologies, they are not required to eventually increase their speeds to 100 down/20 up. In other words, they appear to have less potential than other technologies but have money carved-out for them in the appropriation. There is considerable disagreement about the effectiveness of satellite services, so please share your experiences on these services if you have tried them.

Annexation: The Senate Local Government committee will hear our Orderly Annexation clarification bill in an informational hearing on Tuesday, April 24. After the disappointing Court of Appeals decision concerning Midway Township, Senator Bruce Anderson quickly offered a new draft of the bill that would address the ambiguities found by the Court of Appeals. The new bill, SF 4020, is nearly identical to SF 1749. The hearing offers a chance to explain why this issue is so important to townships. MAT thanks Senator Anderson for his work and support on this issue.

Elections: Secretary of State Steve Simon has been busy, as the State of Minnesota received money from the Federal Government to update our HAVA (Help America Vote Act) system and be proactive with cyber security as authorized by the Federal Government. The State of Minnesota is required to match the Federal funding with State funding. SOS Simon came before the State Government Finance & Policy & Elections committee to ask for $1.5 million (SF3764 amendment) to be used to update those programs. That has been included in the Elections Omnibus Bill.

Contracting Law: HF 3841 passed the House Floor on Monday April 16. This bill allows the threshold for sealed bids to go from 100,000 to 175,000. The Senate will approve it with the language from the House, it is now in the Senate.

 

 

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