Morse, Treehouse will upload new broadband grant

The Town of Morse will again try to help improve internet service in the rural areas around Ely.
After the state wouldn’t fund a project involving Frontier, this time the board is looking locally for a possible solution.
The board passed a motion to pursue a grant with Treehouse Broadband, owned by Ely resident Isaac Olson.
“My customers have been very happy with the high quality of service being provided,” Olson told the board on Jan. 11.
Treehouse uses a high-speed line of sight connection to provide 100 megabit service. So far the Ely water tower has been the only location to push the signal from.
Olson said he would like to put together a grant package to put up six towers, up to 100 feet high, in the area to expand where service can be provided.
Supervisor Bob Berrini said there may be county or other public land in areas where towers could be put up.
Olson said he is also looking at private easements where a property owner could host a tower and receive a discount on the cost of broadband.
Olson said he is also going to set up a broadcast point from the Winton water tower as well.
There needs to be electricity at each tower location.
Morse’s previous proposal would have served around Hwy. 88, the Echo Trail, Van Vac Road and Wolf Lake Road.
“What’s been slowing me down is a lack of capital and time to spend on the business,” said Olson, who continues to work from home while getting Treehouse set up.
There is also the education portion to explain that a fiber only approach doesn’t always work. Olson said funding agencies are beginning to look at hybrid wireless/fiber approaches as ways to better serve areas like Ely.
Tower locations would require some planning tools to determine high points, customer locations, line of sight to other towers or the water tower.
Olson said with a clear line of sight the towers can repeat and shoot a signal out four miles.
Supervisor Terry Soderberg gave Olson a copy of the Design Nine Broadband Study that showed four potential tower locations.
The Morse board approved a motion to seek IRRRB and state funding for a joint project with Treehouse Broadband utilizing $100,000 already set aside by the Morse board.
In other business the board:
• Discussed the proposed ambulance building and concerns over the size of the building and overall proposed cost of $1.4 million. Soderberg said he is concerned about the tax impact of a proposed ambulance building.
• Will meet with the Minnesota DNR on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Tower to discuss the ATV project for the Taconite Trail.
• Approved liquor licenses for Burntside Lodge, Ely Golf Club, Ladybug Lodge and Samz Place.
• Reviewed the note payments for the Morse-Fall Lake Public Safety Facility. There is one payment left, due in February of 2021.
• Approved election judges for the presidential primary and the township election of Paulette Gilbert, Laurie Schmidt, Arlene Today, Kathy Hutar, Nick Wognum and Mary Ann Lekatz.
• Heard from Soderberg that Ely area lodging tax numbers are down 8.8 percent through November of 2019.
• Will next meet on Fe. 11 at 5 p.m.