With Wi-Fi installed in downtown Wendell, the town leads the way in East Wake for public Wi-Fi access to increase quality of life.
Zebulon is working toward installing Wi-Fi in town hall, while Knightdale offers public Wi-Fi in their municipal complex.
Although Wendell town staff completed the installation of necessary equipment for Wi-Fi downtown at the end of June, they say signal strength will increase over the summer as testing continues.
When staff checked on the status of connections at one point in mid-July, 42 devices were connected at the same time.
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The network, dubbed “Wendell Wi-Fi” has no password and is free. It covers roughly the area from town hall on the north, the police station to the south and J. Ashley Town Square to the west.
“The signal will only continue to get stronger as Tamah (Hughes, IT Administrator) continues to test and tweak it,” Town Manager Teresa Piner said.
She added that this will allow the town to provide easier service for residents, in addition to their ability to access the network.
The installation completes a five month process for the town. Next, the town is working toward improving cell phone service and installing two cell towers downtown.
Leaders divided on message board
With the digital message board installed at the end of 2014, town leaders have discussed how to set guidelines for community posts.
At two separate council meetings throughout June and July, commissioners discussed the plethora of churches with vacation bible schools and fundraising events dominating the board.
“Wendell has a lot of churches,” Commissioner John Boyette summed up at a June board meeting.
At the same meeting, Mayor Tim Hinnant urged to limit the board announcements for other reasons:
“If we open it wide open, one staff person will have to do that a day. We will have to pay someone $30 grand plus benefits to manage this board,” Hinnant said. “The other concern is right now our town manager is doing this ... our highest paid employee currently is dealing with the message board.”
Earlier this month, the commissioners agreed upon permitted content such as: governmental meetings, workshops, information; chamber events and announcements; community-wide free events, information or announcements and “other events deemed appropriate in the promotion of economic development and the community.”
A proposed line about prohibited content included business advertisements, nonprofit services and fundraisers.
However, Commissioner Sam Laughery pushed back against that line, proposing an alternative prohibited guideline that reads: “Each nonprofit organization within corporate limits be permitted to advertise one fundraising event per calendar year. The text must be submitted to the town two weeks prior to the event and run one week prior to event.”
That way, Laughery reasoned, at least some fundraisers could be permitted.
“I know when I was voting on it (the message board) originally, I assumed it (fundraising) was one of the opportunities we had... this way it kind of puts it on the churches or whoever it is to pick which of their fundraisers they want to be advertised,” he said.
Commissioner Ginna Gray argued that organizations like the Chamber of Commerce or the East Wake Education Foundation run multiple fundraising events and might not be able to choose.
“I don’t think we should do the business of the month, because that’s businesses and not something we need to include possibly,” Gray added.
When the commissioners voted on the guidelines with Laughery’s modification, the final vote was 4-1, with Gray opposing the motion.
Commissioners agreed to look at the guidelines again in the coming months.