Organizations pledge money to fund Wi-Fi service

Published 8:20 pm Sunday, May 7, 2017

Two organizations are ready to commit $3,000 each to help the city bring public Wi-Fi service to downtown Washington and promote it.

Also, each entity is willing to provide one-third of the recurring annual costs for each year of the three-year contract term.

The Washington Tourism Development Authority and the Washington Harbor District Alliance sent letters discussing their commitments to the project to City Manager Bobby Roberson. Copies of those letters are included in the City Council’s agenda packet for the council’s meeting Monday.

The $3,000 commitments are to help pay for “creative costs related to splash page development, promotion, and user experience,” according to the WTDA letter.

“The WTDA wishes to be good community partners and therefore offers its support to bring public wifi to downtown Washington,” reads the letter.

The WHDA letter contains the same wording. The agenda packet did not include a letter from the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, that letter is forthcoming, Roberson said.

The commitments come about two months after the council discussed plans for the city to partner with the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, Washington Tourism Development Authority and Washington Harbor District Alliance to provide Wi-Fi. The council made it clear it expects those three entities to help pay for the Wi-Fi service, possibly covering the monthly cost. The city is willing to pay the bill for setting up the waterfront Wi-Fi service.

Although the Wi-Fi project is in the CIP, that does not guarantee it will be funded in the upcoming budget.

Earlier this year, the city received a $94,340 grant to enhance the city’s central business district. The money, awarded by the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Rural Economic Development, was allocated this way: $10,000 to Arts of the Pamlico to provide downtown artwork, $30,000 for the city’s façade-improvement program for downtown and $54,340 for streetscape, park improvements and possible Wi-Fi connections downtown, according to a city document.

The city’s capital-improvements plan includes $20,000 for the Wi-Fi project.

During its review of the CIP in March, the council decided the city would take the lead in providing Wi-Fi in that area of the city, in part to provide Internet access to boaters who use the city docks. Boaters have come to expect Wi-Fi at docks, said John Rodman, the city’s community and cultural resources director, at a March council meeting.

The proposed budget for the 2017-2918 fiscal year does not including funding for the Wi-Fi project.

Council member William Pitt said he considers Wi-Fi service downtown as one of the city’s economic-development tools, saying it’s time the city moved into the appropriate century. Councilwoman Virginia Finnerty also supports Wi-Fi at the waterfront, saying it would make the city competitive with other cities and towns in the region that offer Wi-Fi accessible to the public.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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