The Medina City Council Tuesday, Dec. 18, directed city staff to hire an attorney to assist the city with expediting extension of broadband service to residents and businesses in underserved parts of Medina.
At the meeting, the City Council also took up other business. Here are some meeting highlights.
Medina is one of five cities that currently are underserved by the Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission (LMCC) for broadband services. The problem has been Medina’s low population density in its more rural areas. In mid November, the City Council heard presentations from Mediacom and the LMCC about potential solutions to the problem and also franchise negotiations that are happening between the two parties. Their 10-year agreement is due to expire at the end of 2013.
Medina is part of a joint powers agreement amongst 17 cities that make up the LMCC. The LMCC contracts with Mediacom to provide access to the infrastructure that enables residents and businesses to hookup to broadband and the Internet, along with cable TV.
On Dec. 18, City Administrator Scott Johnson described the terms of a Dec. 13 letter from Bill Jensen, regional vice-president, of Mediacom, The letter sets forth Mediacom’s “intent” to “enter into a franchise agreement with the city of Medina at the earliest practical date…”
Johnson also talked about a snag that has popped up in Medina’s talks with Mediacom and the LMCC. Medina City Attorney Ronald Batty and the LMCC attorney Bob Vose both are from the same law firm, Kennedy and Graven. This relationship creates a conflict of interest.
Batty advised Johnson to find an attorney to represent Medina, as it looks at franchise terms with Mediacom and the process exiting from agreements with the LMCC. Both Batty and City Councilors agreed that the attorney would need to know both contract and franchise law.
Finding the new attorney is the first order of business, Batty said.
Jensen, of Mediacom, said his company could begin construction of infrastructure needed to connect residents and businesses to broadband about 90 days after Medina signs a contract.
“We can move rather quickly,” he said.
Mayor Tom Crosby commented, “We’ve been with the LMCC for 25 years. I’m reluctant to do anything precipitously.”
He noted that under an agreement, Medina would be getting franchise fees from Mediacom each year that would be used to pay for broadband connections. He wondered whether Medina could speed up the process of connecting residents and businesses by borrowing internally to pay for extending the infrastructure. This borrowing would be in anticipation of receiving more franchise money in future years. If more people were to hookup to broadband, Medina would get more franchise fees.
HWY. 55/116 INTERSECTION
The City Council approved a layout of proposed improvements to the Highway 55/County Road 116 intersection. Craig Twinem, manager of the design division for Hennepin County, explained the layout and noted that federal funds have paid for the design work. With Medina’s layout approval in hand, he and other officials can pursue money for construction. However, the Highway 55/116 improvements are not in Hennepin County’s five-year capital improvement plan.
Twinem said the intersection layout includes the current driveways to businesses, such as Countryside Café and Adams Pest Control. A service road would run towards Countryside Café from County Road 116.
He warned that the Minnesota Department of Transportation controls medians along Highway 55 and could decide at any time to close the medians for safety reasons. This would limit access to businesses such as the café and Adams Pest Control.
Medina Police Chief Ed Belland said motorists turning into Hwy. 55 businesses west of County Road 116 have not been involved in any accidents. Any traffic accidents have been incidents such as cars being rear-ended.
The City Council directed City Administrator Johnson and Chief Belland to write a letter to MnDOT saying that they do not see the need to close medians for safety reasons and that median closures would have harmful effects on businesses.
The City Council also:
APPROVED the preliminary plat for the Fields of Medina West, a single-family residential development containing 64 single-family lots. Councilors also approved rezoning of the 23-acre parcel from Rural Residential Urban Reserve to R2 single family residential. The development would be north of Meander Road between Arrowhead Drive and County Road 116.
RECOGNIZED outgoing City Councilor Mike Siitari for his four-years of service to the city.
TABLED a request from Jacob Moser for variances that would allow him to construct a 1.5 story walkout home on vacant property on Ardmore Avenue in the Independence Beach area. The property has limited space on which to build because it contains a wetland, and the City Council wanted more information about issues such as minimum buildable lot size.
SET the date of the next City Council meeting for 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 3.