Cersine easily wins re-election

Morse supervisor retains seat with 72% of vote victory over challenger

by Tom Coombe
A challenge to a Morse supervisor’s seat was easily turned down. Len Cersine beat Terry Cooper 149-58 in a high turnout for a township election.
Following the election the annual town meeting was held with the most discussion on broadband.
The budget and levy for 2020 was passed with little discussion. Residents voted to set the levy the same as 2019.
The levy will fund the bulk of a roughly $333,000 budget with a general fund levy of $163,638.10 and a road and bridge levy of $109,092.06.
There is also a debt levy of $57,500 for Morse’s share of the joint public safety facility with the Town of Fall Lake. The debt on the building is close to being paid off.
Terry Soderberg was elected as the moderator for the meeting. He and treasurer Mary Ann Lekatz went through the specifics of the budget and levy.
Lekatz said the township’s total fund balance increased slightly to $448,972.34.
Soderberg pointed out the town board has approved purchasing several pieces of equipment including a used grader, a used loader and a new skidsteer for road work.
Soderberg said Isaac Olson is proposing to put towers that would broadcast a broadband signal from the top of the Ely water tower.
“He’s just investigating this right now but he’s also talked about bringing an antenna from Indiana to put up,” said Soderberg. “We’re going to contact him to come speak to us. We’re trying to do something for the rural areas of Morse township.”
Clerk Nick Wognum said the township is also working with Frontier to improve internet services in areas that have little to no service.
“We’re putting a proposal together with them to get funding through Rep. Rob Ecklund from the state,” said Wognum. “We’ve talked to Rep. Ecklund about making sure we’re eligible for those monies because this is a statewide program.”
Areas that would be targeted include around Hwy. 88, up the Echo Trail and on Wolf Lake Road.
“People would end up with a broadband signal that’s much better than it is right now,” said Soderberg.
Wognum said there is also a project being proposed by the YMCA camps on the North Arm to bring high-speed internet access to that area.
This would be in addition to the Morse-Frontier plan which would go north as far as Passi Road.
The two phase plan would cost $1.1 million and benefit nearly 470 homes and several businesses by extending fiber lines.
“Morse said we’d put some skin in the game, some money to get it done,” said Soderberg.
“We don’t want to get into the business of offering services to customers, we saw what happened with Lake Connections,” said Wognum. “We’re working with companies like Frontier to provide the infrastructure, just like paving a road.”
Some homeowners along Hwy. 21 between and Ely and Babbitt have been able to get service from Lake Connections which has a fiber cable buried along the highway.
“We sat down and looked at areas within the township that don’t have good service and get them first,” said Wognum.
He said the township has also started working with Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Pete Stauber to see if there is any federal money available.
“It’s interesting you would even think about working with Frontier doing anything,” said Cooper. “Why would you attempt to put something in when once they got it in they’re not going to service it?”
“It’s not the best solution but it’s better than me and Terry and Lenny and Bob going out and hooking up cables to your house,” said Wognum. “We don’t want that either!”
Soderberg said in town people can choose between Midco and Fronter.
“I hate to say but in rural areas Frontier is the only one that’s really offering any choice. That’s not to say we’re going to pick Frontier. I’m hoping this new group taking over Lake Connections is going to come in and say, How can we work with you guys to get some more customers?” said Soderberg.
Wognum said the problem with Lake Connections was they weren’t able to work out an agreement with Frontier to use their poles, especially up the Echo Trail.
“Does Frontier bring a lot of baggage with? Definitely. Are they the only player we’re able to work with at the moment? Yes,” said Wognum.
“There are a lot of businesses and resorts and the Y camps up the Echo Trail. They’re trying to operate as a business and help Ely. But we can’t do it. I have dial-up speeds. I can’t even download a photograph unless I do it at 2 a.m.,” said North Arm Road resident Claire Taylor.
In other action:
• The township website will be moving to a .gov domain but is currently located at morsemn.govoffice3.com.
• The polling hours for March 10, 2020 will again be from noon to 8 p.m. Wognum said there were 19 absentee voters this year with the town hall open extra hours prior to the election. “We want to give people every opportunity to come and vote,” said Wognum.
• The annual meeting will be held following the election on March 10, 2020.