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Murray County to aid in broadband grant

SLAYTON — Murray County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to commit a $200,000 grant toward funding for expanding broadband to the southern part of Murray County.

The grant funds were requested by Lismore Coop Telephone Co., which is also applying for Minnesota's Border-to-Border grant program toward the same cause. If the state grant is awarded, Lismore Coop will still have a $200,000 funding gap — thus the request in that amount from the county.

Murray County Economic Development Director Amy Rucker explained that the EDA has enough in its Revolving Loan Fund to aid in Lismore Coop's project, but that commitment would significantly decrease the total balance of the fund.

The EDA recommended approving the grant with the condition that the county appropriate $25,000 from revenue to the Revolving Loan Fund in 2019 (which was already approved in the 2019 budget) and again in 2020 (which Rucker has already included in her budget request). The appropriated total of $50,000 would help augment available loan funds for other economic development projects throughout the county.

"This is about the only way it's going to get done," said commissioner and board chair Dave Thiner of the broadband project. "I just don't love the blackmail part of it."

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Murray County Auditor/Treasurer Heidi Winter added that it's the understanding of the EDA board that when the EDA cannot sufficiently meet a need, the county will step in to help.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the grant.

The allotment of $200,000 from the county toward connecting broadband is contingent upon Lismore Coop receiving the Border-to-Border grant from the state.

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