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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Berlin goes higher tech

BERLIN — Generally last-minute, un-budgeted expenditures don’t get very good popular reviews, but the Town Council’s decision to tap into a small portion this year’s funds to bring Wi-Fi to the Downtown will likely do little to raise public ire.
At the end of last year’s budget debate, Councilwoman Lisa Hall suggested adding funding for Downtown Wi-Fi as part of the fiscal 2013 budget, but the recommendation slipped through the cracks and remained all but forgotten about until this month.
As the Town moved to finalize the budget, Mayor Gee Williams recalled Hall’s suggestion and asked Town staff to look into the cost and logistics of getting the work done. 
“We forgot about it the whole time we went through the budget process,” said Williams.
Tim Lawrence, Town Electric Utility Director, who headed up a similar project in his last job running the electric utility in Manassas, Va. took charge of the inquiry and discovered that the cost was $2,596, well below the amount the Town had feared. 
Rather than try and squeeze and additional $2,500 into the fiscal 2013 budget, the Council voted unanimously to use money from the electric contingency fund to get
Town Administrator Tony carson told the Council that the administration has explored add broadband in the past but the estimates have ranged from $25,000-$50,000 plus annual maintenance.
The primary reason it will be so much less expensive creating a system, the company will amplify the Wi-Fi signal from Town Hall throughout the Downtown by placing transmitters atop three buildings.
“I actually worked with the guys when they installed it,” Lawrence said. “I was involved with it the whole time that it was being installed.”
Lawrence called his former employer last week to make sure that the system was running as expected.
“He said they very rarely have a problem with it,” Lawrence said.
Carson told the Mayor and Council that the final piece of the puzzle will be to find businesses willing to participate in the Wi-Fi program by allowing the town to plug the transmitters in at their establishments. 
One transmitter will be placed upon Town Hall but the others ill have to be on privately owned buildings, something Carson said he was certain the business community would accept.
“It’s about the same cost as having a light bulb on to plug [the system] in,” he said.
Lawrence said that once the final plan had been established he would work with Town Director of Community and Economic Development Michel Day to coordinate with willing property owners in discovering the best place to have the infrastructure. 
Lawrence said that the Wi-Fi would cover Main Street from West Street north to about Powellton Avenue and run a little more than a block deep.