Kewaunee County Board approves contract for high-speed internet expansion
KEWAUNEE – The Kewaunee County Board approved a contract with Bug Tussel Wireless at its Tuesday night meeting for the company to build seven towers intended to expand high-speed broadband access across most of the county.
The contract calls for the county to officially accept a $960,000 grant awarded in March by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission for the project and loan a matching amount, a requirement of the grant, to Bug Tussel for construction work. Bug Tussel will repay the loan over a 12-year period at 3% interest, a total of $1.157 million.
The total cost of the wireless project is estimated at $2.52 million. Besides the grant and loan, Bug Tussel is putting $600,000 into the project, and County Administrator Scott Feldt said it will be completed essentially at no cost to the county by the time the loan is repaid. Responding to a question during Tuesday's meeting, Feldt said several parts of the contract could be considered performance measures to ensure Bug Tussel does the work for which it's being paid.
When complete, the expansion will service 13,314 locations that don't receive high-speed Wi-Fi or struggle with it. It will cover the Village of Casco and Towns at Red River, Franklin, Carlton, West Kewaunee and Casco, as well as the Town of Mishicot in Manitowoc County.
The seven new towers will be built in or near Bay View, East Krok, Bolt, Gregorville, Norman, Ryan's Corner and Tisch Mills. The plan also looks to lease four or five existing towers in the area.
The next step, after the contract is signed, is finalizing and acquiring the tower sites. Jason Wied, Bug Tussel chief operating office and general counsel, said during Tuesday's meeting the towers are expected to be installed within a year.
Wied said service capabilities will depend to some extent on demand, that it could be affected if a large number of people in certain areas opt for higher speeds. But he added that the towers can be upgraded and boosted if the demand warrants it.
"I think we'll be able to blanket a lot of the county," Wied told the board. "Our goal has always been to get it to anyone who wants it."
The vote to approve the contract was 17-2, with Supervisors Milt Swagel and John Wochos voting no.
Board approves voting machine purchases
In other action, the board unanimously approved the purchase of 15 new ICE (ImageCast Evolution) voting machines. Fourteen will go to local municipalities, who will pay half of their individual costs, and the county will retain the 15th.
The new machines combine ballot marking and optical scanning and are easier to use for those with accessibility concerns, according to the county. It also can read absentee ballots instead of those having to be hand-counted.
The total cost of the purchase is $122,745, with the county's cost $54,383.
The reason for the purchase is that the vendor of the machines the county currently uses told the county it will no longer service them by 2022. County Clerk Jamie Annoye said in the meeting that the county is getting a group discount by buying the new machines now along with several other counties.
The board also unanimously approved giving the Luxemburg-Casco School District a discount of $25,809.80 on its school liaison officer contract with the Sheriff's Department.
The discount was requested by the school district because of the hours liaison officers were not needed when Luxemburg-Casco schools were closed this spring by state order for the COVID-19 pandemic. The district would have paid $122,014 to the department before the discount.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Kewaunee County Board approves contract for high-speed internet expansion