City making plan to bring Wi-Fi downtown

Published 8:04 pm Friday, May 12, 2017

Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, gave the green light for city officials to work with three organizations regarding their financial assistance in bringing public Wi-Fi to the city’s downtown/waterfront area.

“The Wi-Fi money is currently in the budget at $20,000. We did receive the Chamber of Commerce’s letter of endorsement after the agenda went out, and I had a nice conversation with Catherine (Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce on Monday). Our proposal is to meet with all three of the agencies, work up a letter of understanding and bring back a total cost proposal to the council to endorse,” City Manager Bobby Roberson said.

Three 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, the Washington Harbor District Alliance and the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce sent letters discussing their commitments to the project to Roberson. 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 organizations 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.

Councilman Doug Mercer questioned where the Wi-Fi contract numbers came from and what they represent.

“The contract numbers represent the materials. What we did — the city is standardizing its Wi-Fi footprint already using what’s in the electric department. So, we are utilizing that piece of hardware, and we are expanding it to the downtown area, which we already know how to use it, how to set it up.” said David Carraway, the city’s information-technology director. “It’s a very robust piece of hardware.”

Mercer said: “The letters that we got from three organizations indicate they are willing to support the ongoing maintenance for three years, and what is that number?”

Carraway said, “That three years comes from — typically when we contract with Suddenlink, we either use a three-year (contract) or a fife-year, but because of the uncertainty of this project, I elected to go with three-year because I felt that was the best solution at the time.”

Mercer replied: “What is the number for the three-year contract?”

Carraway said, “From year two out, I think it’s like $3,200 or $3,400 a year.

Mercer said, “In essence, the three organizations are committing to $4,400 apiece for the next three years.”

Roberson said the exact commitments from each organization would be brought back to the council. “We need to move forward on it so we can develop the letter of understanding. We’ll bring that back for council endorsement,” he said.

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.


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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