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Wildwood passes 2018 budget, including rural high-speed internet updates

By: Jessica Meszaros

On Dec. 11, the Wildwood City Council issued its second reading of the city’s proposed budget for FY2018. The council voted 14 to 0 in favor of passing the proposed budget, with Councilmembers Greg Stine and Jeff Levitt [both of  Ward 7] absent.

As part of the budget, the council approved allocating about $200,000 toward citywide efforts to expand rural internet access with the help of the Rural Internet Access Committee [RIAC.] Specifically, the budgeted amount is to go toward the installation of 15 high-speed internet poles across the community and in Wildwood subdivisions that are currently underserved and unserved in terms of internet access.

Map of underserved internet areas in Wildwood from the Rural Internet Access Committee’s 2017 survey

Two high-speed internet pole locations are scheduled for discussion and approval for the start of 2018. One pole would be located near the Shiloh subdivision, located off Reiger Road and south of Dr. Edmund A. Babler Memorial State Park. The other pole would be installed in the Hawk’s Rest subdivision, located near Tavern Creek and off Historic U.S. Route 66. The areas are located in Ward 1 and Ward 6, respectively.

“Within the approved 2018 budget, there is a line item for the rural internet access initiative,” Mayor Jim Bowlin said, in an interview after the meeting. “That was increased recently to allow for the addition of poles at the two locations, among other things.”

According to Bowlin, trustees of both subdivisions were notified of the update via email.

“I just want to get service to our people,” Bowlin said. “This is something I’m committed to for the residents, and particularly in this instance, with these two subdivisions, where we can do an outlay that is comparably nominal in cost compared to other things we do and still have an effect on such a large amount of people in rural areas and be able to get high-speed internet access to them.”

According to City Administrator Ryan Thomas and Director of Planning and Parks Joe Vujnich, work also is underway to add infrastructure to a large emergency communications tower located in Babler Park and upgrade equipment in the Homestead Estates subdivision, which also would help serve the Shiloh subdivision. The work is ongoing and separate from the 2018 budget, but its completion is tentatively scheduled for January.

The exact locations of the poles within the Shiloh subdivision and Hawk’s Rest subdivision have yet to be officially determined. According to Thomas, the poles would allow anyone within a certain distance to gain access to the internet, including some individuals beyond the two neighborhoods.

“We are going to have a little overlap,” Thomas said. “Any time a new pole is added, it increases the coverage.”

According to Bowlin, a tentative estimate for the installation, approvals and construction would be about six to nine months, but with many factors subject to change.

“We’re going to get the planning done,” Bowlin said. “We’ll need to select the pole locations, and there will probably need to be some other approvals that will need to be put out to get the poles ordered, and then get them installed.

“I’m just personally committed to it, and we’ll see it through,” Bowlin said.

The cost per pole is $5,000. In addition to the Hawk’s Rest and Shiloh installations, numerous other locations are being evaluated for potential pole locations. Thomas said some locations under consideration include Tamara Trail, Allenton Woods Court, Hencken Valley Estates Drive, Bouquet Road and Ben Alder Subdivision, Chateau Lane, Rocky Ridge Road, Wakefield Farm Road and Melrose Road at Allenton Road.


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