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Data centre build raises concern in Minnesota township

Fri 20 Feb 2015

Plans for a new data centre in St Louis County, Minnesota have generated much controversy in the rural Alden Township which borders the proposed site.

County officials are marketing 120 acres of land near to the Lake-St Louis county line, and stressing the location’s potential as an ideal home for a data centre with its cool climate and relatively low risk of natural disasters. Lake County has also promoted its broadband network as a further pull, as well as Minnesota’s strong tax incentives for data centre construction and operations.

The county has suggested that the new data centre would create up to 12 new job posts in the area.

Matt Huddleston, a Lake County administrator confirmed that the site was selected “as the one they thought was the best […] It wasn’t just the county that went ahead and picked this one location. A study was done.”

However, many Alden Township residents have voiced their concerns and questions about the possible build. Around 40 people turned up at a Town Hall meeting at the beginning of February to pose their queries to Lake County commissioner Rich Sve. Among the main complaints was the environmental impact that the facility could have on the Knife River, which runs through the site.

The township also discussed the potential traffic disruption caused during the construction of the centre, and the general harm the build would cause to the area’s rural character.

“I live in the country because I want to live in the country,” commented one member of the audience. “Why don’t we put industry where industry should be?”

Sve said that of the 120 acres, only 40 were expected to be occupied by the data centre, which would measure between 20,000 and 40,000 sq.ft., and that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency would be involved in smoothing any environmental concerns.

“It’s a big box … a box in the woods,” he told the audience. “There’s no noise, there’s no emissions.”

Lake County has been on the lookout for a data centre contractor for four years, and hired APEX, a business development in the region, to help in its hunt.

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