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County organizations to receive $84,000 for technology initiatives

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County organizations to receive $84,000 for technology initiatives
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

Eleven Stevens County schools, libraries and organizations will receive $84,000 for broadband technology projects through a grant from the Blandin Foundation.

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Upcoming free training sessions on issues such as using Google, assessing businesses' online presence and doing business online also are expected to give participants the tools to enhance their use of the Internet, said Michael Haynes, Executive Director of the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission, which announced the grant recipients Tuesday.

"They will help businesses be more survivable and use the Web more intelligently," Haynes said. "(The training) sessions will help everybody."

Stevens County was one of 11 rural areas eligible for the Broadband Technical Opportunities Program grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The following community organizations received Blandin funding awards. All project must be completely by 2012.

RESOURCE CONNECTIONS - $20,000

Resource Connections will permanently install at least one public assess computer and one wireless router and their associated software and support equipment for a community "wireless wi-fi hot spot" and a three-year Internet subscription in each of the five incorporated cities of Stevens County. All public access computers and wireless routers shall be provided for the use of the general public at no cost to users.

MIDWEST SPECIAL EDUCATION COOPERATIVE - $11,000

Midwest Special Education Cooperative shall provide speech therapy and other special education services via the Internet to students in 9 West Central Minnesota Public School Systems (Browns Valley, Chokio-Alberta, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, Cyrus, Hancock, Herman-Norcross, Morris Area, West Central Area, and Wheaton). Midwest Special Education Cooperative will collect system use data to measure the effectiveness of this new service delivery model. The data will be used to establish the effectiveness and possible future uses of Internet delivery of special education services.

MORRIS AREA COMMUNITY EDUCATION - $10,000

Morris Area Community Education (MACE) will add to its holdings, 10 laptop computers (a Mobile Leaning Laboratory) and their associated support equipment (storage unit, printer, etc.) for its and the Morris Area School System's (MAS) use. They will be available to recognized community organizations at no cost for workshop and training purposes when not being used by MACE or MAS.

STEVENS FORWARD - $3,000

Stevens Forward will provide countywide coordination involving public entity web site development and updating throughout Stevens County. The web sites, at a minimum shall include 1 county government site, 5 city government sites, 1 chamber of commerce site, 1 county economic development organization site, and 1 Resource Connections site. Other sites may or may not be included.

MORRIS PUBLIC LIBRARY - $10,000

The Morris Public Library will add to its holdings, 6 laptop computers and their associated support equipment (storage unit, printer, etc.) for use within the library. They will be available to recognized community organizations at no cost for workshop and training purposes when not being used by the Library. In addition a space and resources within the library will be provided to create a business and career work center.

STEVENS COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY - $ 6,000

Stevens County Historical Society (SCHS) will become a globally connected resource by providing its collections and records on its web site. The collection data to go broadband first will be the Stevens County cemetery records. Digital inclusion of the other collection data such as the 20,000+-photo collection as well as some digital images of artifacts and archives will also be uploaded to the web site. Wireless routers will be installed in the upper and lower meeting spaces and the lecture space at the Museum.

HANCOCK PUBLIC SCHOOL - $6,000

Hancock Public School District 768 will increase its broadband strength from 3mbs to 10mbs by 31 December 2011.

MORRIS AMERICAN LEGION - $10,000

The Morris American Legion will add to its holdings the equipment necessary to make the Walter Tripp American Legion Post 29 an Internet Community Internet Center, a public access computer site, and a community "wi-fi" hot spot. The Community Internet Center will be available to recognized community organizations at no cost for workshop and training purposes when not being used by the American Legion.

MORRIS HRA 1 - $2,000

The Morris Housing and Redevelopment Authority (MHRA) will establish a web site for the City of Morris Public Housing Program. The web site will provide information to past, current, and prospective public housing tenants and other interested parties with up-to-date guidance and educational information. The web site will also have on-line versions of all Morris Public Housing Program documents (applications, etc.). MHRA will provide the public with computer access for the Morris Public Housing Program.

MORRIS HRA 2 - $5,000

The Morris Housing and Redevelopment Authority (MHRA) will establish a web site for the Morris Housing and Redevelopment Authority Rental Housing Licensing Program. The web site will provide information to past, current, and prospective tenants, landlords, and other interested parties with up-to-date inspection results, guidance and educational information. The web site will also have on-line versions of all landlord/tenant Rental Housing Licensing Program documents (applications, etc.). MHRA will provide the public with computer access for the Morris Rental Housing Licensing Program.

HANCOCK COMMUNITY LIBRARY - $1,000

The Hancock Community Library will add to its holdings, 1 laptop computer and its associated support equipment (storage unit, printer, etc.) for use within the library. It will be available to recognized community organizations at no cost for workshop and training purposes when not being used by the Library.

To disburse the grant funds in accordance with rules and regulations of the C.K. Blandin Foundation and the US Department of Commerce, SCEIC established a 12-member Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community (MIRC) Steering Committee. Committee members are Karen Arnold (Morris Area Chamber of Commerce), Kevin Beyer (Federated Telephone), Jim Dieter (Tech Plus), Patty Kill (Riverwood Bank), Scott Monson (Morris Area Schools), Carolyn Peterson (Stevens Forward), Holly Witt (Bremer), Sheri Holm and Greg Wagner (West Central Initiative), Karl Samp (Blandin) and Michael Haynes (SCEIC Executive Director).

This summer a community meeting of all the possible county organizations that were eligible to receive funds was held to inform them of the available funds and the projects that would qualify. The steering committee then published a Request-for-Proposals and received 13 responses to it.

The free training sessions, through the University of Minnesota Extension service, include a January session, Google U, intended to teach participants how to use Google's search features more efficiently. A February training session will focus on how businesses can assess their presence on digital maps and GPS applications and how to fix inaccuracies and more efficiently use their listings. And a March training session will dwell on how small businesses are using the Internet to gain and improve online presence.

Other training opportunities are in the planning stages, Haynes said, stressing that participants within 25 miles of Morris are welcome to take part.

Haynes also said that Blandin will likely pursue other initiatives to enhance broadband in rural areas.

"I don't think they will cease their activities," said Haynes, noting that Blandin and the SCEIC have been working to promote broadband in the area for years. "They'll be looking for more opportunities."

For more information regarding the SCEIC's Minnesota Intelligent Rural Community (MIRC) grant program, contact Haynes at sceic@hometownsolutions.net, at (320) 585-2609, and at the SCEIC offices at 507 Atlantic Avenue, in Morris.

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