Months after it stepped back from a massive public-private project for high-speed Internet services, the Ramsey County Board on Tuesday approved the sale of $7 million in bonds to assemble a more modest system for county business only.
Ramsey County will start accepting bids this summer from companies to build and lease a network that limits access to county buildings.
That way, officials figure, the county’s immediate business needs will be met while leaving the door open to future high-tech developments.
Unlike an earlier plan that envisioned a partnership with Minnesota Fiber Exchange, the county will oversee the entire project. And it won’t offer services to the city of St. Paul, residents or private businesses.
Last summer, it looked as though Ramsey County and St. Paul would be working together to build a $30 million network with Minnesota Fiber Exchange that would sell cable services to residents and businesses. The city would have contributed $1.5 million a year toward the county’s $14 million share of the costs.
But Minnesota Fiber had trouble getting financing. The County Board finally dropped the company as a partner to take a fresh look at its fiber-optic alternatives. The county had been taking some heat from cable companies and the business community for entering the cable business.
Joe Campbell, a spokesman for Mayor Chris Coleman, said it was unfortunate that the county and city were unable to work together on an improved fiber-optic network because they have the same needs and share many of the same functions.
“The need remains, and we continue to explore all options to upgrade the current network,” he said.
The broadband bonding was part of a $22.7 million capital improvement package that the board unanimously approved Tuesday to launch or continue many projects.
Totem Town, a raise and more
Plans to design a new facility and possibly buy land for Boys Totem Town, the county’s residential facility for adolescent delinquents, will get $5 million — the first of three expected bonding appropriations for Totem Town, county finance director Lee Mehrkens said.
A software upgrade for the county’s 911 dispatch system will get $5 million, he said. And a $3.2 million project to replace the roof and tuck-point masonry on the county-owned Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul will get $1.9 million in bonding, after getting $1.3 million last year.
The board approved the sale of $12 million in taxable bonds to clean up the 430-acre Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills, which the county bought from the federal government in April. The second bonding installment to pay for pollution remediation will come next year, Mehrkens said.
Also Tuesday, the board on a 4-3 vote approved a 1 percent pay raise for itself, bumping the salaries of most commissioners to $84,888. Commissioners who voted against the pay raise were Blake Huffman, Mary Jo McGuire and Janice Rettman.