Update on MN Broadband Fund Project in Rock County: Prevailing wages not new

There seems to be a little scuttlebutt concerning the broadband project in Rock County that received Minnesota Broadband Fund award. The folks in Luverne note that prevailing wage requirements are having an impact on their broadband project…

Prevailing wage issues have also caused problems in the community, and are of particular concern as they await bids for expanding broadband.

“That issue, out here in rural Minnesota, can really put the kibosh on a project,” said Frakes.

Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre said they are bound by the prevailing wage rules that come out of the Twin Cities. He’d like to see barriers broken so that the wages could be based off larger cities in the region, like Sioux Falls, S.D.

He said there is a real fear that the prevailing wage (Davis-Bacon) law may force a change in the scope of the broadband project.

“Dollars from the state aren’t going to go as far because of the rule,” he said. “Our goal, and I think the state’s goal when awarding the grant, was to get 100 percent coverage in Rock County.”

Now, he’s not sure 100 percent broadband coverage is attainable with the funds they have — if they have to meet the Davis-Bacon law.

But as a subsequent letter to the editor indicates, DEED clearly notes need for prevailing wages on their website – and prevailing wage is determined by region, which means rural areas don’t correlate to rural areas…

Rock County Administrator Oldre and others would like us to believe that Minnesota’s prevailing wage law is the culprit here. The broadband grant program clearly states that Minnesota’s prevailing wage rates would apply (http://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/grant-program/). There should be no surprise, and these rates should have been calculated into the grant application. Administrator Oldre also implies that the rates are metropolitan rates and we should look to South Dakota for guidance. What? I would expect that a county administrator with his experience would know that each county has its own prevailing wage rate — and that Rock County’s rate is a far cry from the rates of Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

I am excited that this project will put Rock County in a position that will allow us to thrive and prosper. There is no need to disparage a program that ensures that ALL will prosper when tax dollars are used on public projects.

This entry was posted in Funding, MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

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

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