Cary News

Morrisville approves Google Fiber hut

Google Fiber is one step closer to availability in Morrisville, although there’s still no official word on what Triangle town might be the first to offer the high-speed Internet service.

The Morrisville Town Council voted Tuesday to follow through on a previous agreement to rent Google 1,900 square feet of space in town to build what the company calls a fiber hut – a key part of its infrastructure.

Cary, which will need four huts compared to Morrisville’s one, is also moving forward on finding locations for them. Cary officials last heard an update in April.

“There’s been a lot of people asking who’s the first city to roll this out,” said Council member Steve Rao, asking what Morrisville’s actions Tuesday might mean for its chances.

“We still don’t know,” said Tim Gauss, the town’s director of Development Services. “I’ve spoken with the Triangle coordinator for Google Fiber, and that’s still not determined.”

But he said he expects Google to make an announcement sometime in June about a timeline for the next few months.

“They’re trying to be careful about not rolling out too much too quickly, to not raise expectations,” Gauss said. “Especially because some of the front-end steps might take longer than they anticipate.”

The hut is where the signals for Google’s fiber service – which is about 1,000 times faster than a typical broadband signal – will originate. It will be on town-owned land on Foxglove Drive, between Church Street and Town Hall Drive. Google previously promised to pay Triangle towns rent of $2 per square foot for the hut sites, so Morrisville will get $3,800 a year from Google.

The town also will be responsible for maintaining the site, including the heavy landscaping planned to obscure it from view. Council member TJ Cawley asked whether the $3,800 will be enough to pay for that work.

“We have not made those calculations,” Gauss said.

There are a number of homeowners in the area who asked that the hut not be placed near their neighborhood, Gauss said. But its central location will allow it to serve the entire town, and even some areas beyond town limits – about 20,000 addresses in total.

Cawley said he was hesitant to approve the fiber hut Tuesday, because it was the first time the plans had come before the council. But Gauss said Google wants to get working immediately, and that town staff already have met with neighbors to talk about any potential concerns.

Gauss said the hut likely would be the only one needed in town, at least for the near future.

The hut will be surrounded by an 8 foot tall opaque fence to block it from view, he said, and that will be surrounded by trees and bushes.

“Once the vegetation is planted and it starts growing, it really will be a forgotten item,” he said.

Google Fiber also will served Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Garner.

Business news

The Morrisville Chamber of Commerce’s new president also formally introduced herself at Tuesday’s meeting. Sarah Gaskill took over for former president Carlotta Ungarro, who left in January for a similar job in Georgia.

“We look forward to working with you, we look forward to partnering with you, and from me personally, thanks so much for making me feel welcome,” Gaskill said.

Mayor Mark Stohlman told Gaskill, who formerly worked with small businesses for the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, that the town has high hopes for her.

“Carlotta set the mark pretty high, so you’ve got big shoes to fill,” Stohlman said. “She was fantastic. But I like the fact that you’re a small business specialist. We’ve got our fill of small businesses here and I’m sure they’re eager to start working with you.”

One of those small businesses – the Triangle Rock Club – was named the 2015 Small Business of the Year Tuesday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at an awards ceremony in Washington. The club started in Morrisville in 2007.

Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran