Sibley County votes out of RS Fiber Project; Renville votes in

Today I attended the Sibley County Commissioners’ Meeting. I expected to hear Economic Developer Tim Dolan speak about the RS Fiber project for 15 minutes. ( I recently wrote up a quick review of the RS Fiber project for folks who want details.) What I heard was almost 45 minutes of debate and then a vote by the Commissioners to discontinue their relationship with RS Fiber. There were 50-60 audience members in the meeting and I heard there were another couple of dozen people outside the room.

I captured the meeting on video; it’s not the best quality but I think the audio is OK. For ease of upload and hopefully to get viewers to the section that most interests them I have divided the video into the following three segments:

Tim Dolan Speaks on Benefits of Fiber

Economic Developer Tim Dolan began by talking about the benefits of fiber and encouraged the Commission to consider moving forward with plans for a community-wide fiber project. Other speakers promoting the fiber plan include: Gaylord Mayor Brenda Pautsch, Kevin Lauwagie, board chair for United Farmers’ Cooperative headquartered in Winthrop, Jeff Nielsen from United Farmers Union and Lyle Wiese from Kelso Township.

County Attorney Dave Schauer on Legal Matters

The County Attorney recounted a phone conversation from the day before detailing the legal issues and subsequent financial issues. In short, the counties and cities need to find a legal counsel that will authorize a move forward. They have had previous legal counsel look at their business plan and contracts and none have felt comfortable giving such authority. There is new counsel willing to take a look at the situation but the cost is $70,000 – or about $5,000 to each entity. (A letter from attorneys at Dorsey Whitney was handed out at the meeting.)

Debate and Vote

There was discussion, mostly among Commissioners, on the situation. In the end, they voted 3 to 2 to discontinue the project. The following Commissioners voted yes (to leave project): Jim Nytes, Jim Swanson, Bill Pinske; the following voted no (to continue project): Joy Cohrs and Harold Pettis.

Renville County Votes In

At about the same time Renville County Commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with the plan.

Moving Forward

Here’s an update from the RS Fiber Facebook Page

Current status of RS Fiber is this: Renville County (by commissioners for its rural) and all of the cities in the project area except for Henderson have voted to move forward to bonding, most with the contingency of a favorable bond counsel opinion.

Henderson has not yet taken this final vote.

Sibley County (by commissioners for its rural area) has voted to withdraw from the project.

The RS Fiber Joint Powers Board will be meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, October 24) at 7 p.m. on the 2nd floor of the Winthrop City Hall to discuss the next steps in the project and how the withdrawal of Sibley County affects things. As always, this is a public meeting and any who are interested in learning about the work of the board are invited to attend.

This entry was posted in Community Networks, FTTH, MN, Policy, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

3 thoughts on “Sibley County votes out of RS Fiber Project; Renville votes in

  1. i am glad sibley co. voted to stay out of the fiber, .30% of people don’t have land lines, almost all young people use hand held wireless and no home base computers for internet acssess and I have no problem with my current business or home acssess! RS fiber is a step backwards in progress. Wireless is the future !!!

  2. I think wireless is definitely here to stay. The applciations that open up with wireless/mobile access are great. Telehealth alone gives us a grea tlist.

    But I don’t know that handhelds suffice for all uses. For example I don’t know that I’d want to fill out a job application on a hand held device. Also we have 5 people in my home – and often we’re all online at the same time. I don’t want to pay for subscriptions for each device, which means I need something coming into the house.

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