IRRRB to consider further Range broadband expansion

Internet Infrastructure

PHOTO: Joselito Tagarao, Creative Commons license

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) will meet tomorrow in St. Paul to discuss an investment in broadband technology on the Range and funds for the Giants Ridge Event Center.

Coming on the heels of about $2 million in state money for broadband infrastructure announced last week, the IRRRB will now consider an additional $1.5 million to add more communities to that same initiative.

Clinton Township on behalf of Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) and Frontier Communications is requesting $1.5 million for a $4.34 million broadband expansion project. The project entails providing direct broadband connections to 30 townhalls/firehalls and 877 households in 20 townships across the IRRRB service area. The project will provide connection speeds above the state broadband goal to areas that are currently unserved and underserved by broadband infrastructure. It is projected that 28 construction jobs will be created.

Remaining project funding has been secured by NESC, Frontier, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Earlier this week, DEED awarded the project a $1.96 million grant from the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program.

Also at issue will be new funds to cover extra costs after bids came in high for an expansion project at Giants Ridge.

An increase of $1.6 million to the Giants Ridge Event Center budget also will be considered. The IRRR Board approved an original expenditure of $6.1 million for a new event center, in combination with $3.8 million from the 2014 Minnesota State Bonding Bill. Construction bids were opened in January with the lowest bid being $1.6 million over the projected construction budget estimate.

IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips said, “While we wish the construction would have come in under the budget estimate, the bid results reflect the strong economy in Minnesota and are within the boundaries according to construction experts.”

The board will also reorganize for the new year. Sen. David Tomassoni is the current chair of the board, but the chairmanship generally rotates between Senate and House members. The most senior House member on the IRRRB is State Rep. David Dill, who has served as chair in the past. Though seniority is usually the prime factor, I haven’t heard if Dill plans to serve in that role again or if another House member will be elected to the position. The next most senior members would be Rep. Tom Anzelc, followed by Rep. Carly Melin and Rep. Jason Metsa. Rep. Dale Lueck, the only Republican on the IRRRB, is new to the board.


  1. Anybody have any ideas to the IRRRB help us? So tired of all the failed projects and wasteful spending. They are supposed to be bringing jobs up here but we get pet projects and political blathering from board.

    • Hi Ken. Good question. We are approaching the weekend. So I have time to comment at the moment. Weekends are good lately. Long story. Not pertinent.

      IRRRB will not be able to change until a significant number of Rangers express their realization that mining employment will always be very limited. Measure the production now versus the production with 1970s employment. That same dynamic will apply to non-ferrous mining. Obviously, production will be able to grow while employment numbers will continue to shrink.

      I am interested in finding out how people react when production requires almost no people? How will people feel about environmental regulations, for example, when it becomes blatantly obvious that a foreign company is simply extracting minerals and dumping waste without need for the locals? Compared to the old days that really is already happening.

      So, maybe the real question is: Why do people believe mining is the dominant industry? Why is there a dependency on mining? The only important factors are how many people are employed? And, how much money stays within the local economy?

      IRRRB is funded by an industry that does not want other industries around. The mining industry wants dependence. That is the cheapest way to produce. That way the community opposes the regulations that protect the community in order to gain the imaginary employment from the dominant industry.

      Have a good Friday. Talk to ya later…

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.