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Thursday May 25th, 2017 6:09PM

Gainesville City Council hears about new technology and old 'eyesore'

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

GAINESVILLE – Pleasant weather makes the downtown Gainesville square a hot-spot for people-watching, quiet time and gentle conversation, but by autumn of 2018 it could also become a hot-spot, literally.

Complimentary secure Wi-Fi is in the sights of Gainesville’s downtown strategic plan according to the city’s Special Projects Manager, Jessica Tullar.

Tullar told city council members at their work session Thursday morning that she would like to apply for a federally-funded grant available through the Appalachian Regional Commission to cover purchase and installation costs to establish a secure wireless hot zone covering the immediate downtown area.

“We are a very young city; over one-third of our population are Millennials and they are very much more technologically driven,” Tullar said.

The grant requires Gainesville to match a portion of the federal funds; Tullar’s request involved a commitment of $30,000 from the city.

“There was a lot of interest in creating a secure wireless hot-spot for some of the younger students, the Brenau students and our Gainesville High School students and Leadership Hall students,” Tullar added.

Tullar said the internet signal would also extend coverage to the newly renovated Roosevelt Square area.

Under present conditions people using internet devices on the square are either “borrowing” a Wi-Fi signal from a nearby business (not necessarily a secure way of transmitting and receiving data) or they are using their cell phones as hotspots (also not secure and sometimes costly data rates can run up cell phone bills).

“This will also help promote e-commerce in our downtown area.”

Tullar said the grant application process can sometimes be lengthy and suggested that if the grant application is accepted actual Wi-Fi service may not be a reality until October of 2018.

Tullar was optimistic about the likelihood of grant approval because the project to bring secure Wi-Fi to the city had already been approved as an “ARC Priority Project” by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the Office of Governor Nathan Deal.

COUNCILWOMAN EXPRESSES FRUSTRATION WITH “EYESORE”

The Atlanta Street Apartments are gone. Construction work on the Walton Summit affordable housing community is about to begin, and the council woman representing that portion of the city expressed a strong desire to consider a remaining adjacent business that she feels will distract from the attractiveness of the new 11.67-acre development.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Barbara Brooks told fellow council members during discussion of a resolution to transfer ownership of the property upon which Atlanta Street sits that she hoped some sort of landscape structure or fencing would segregate the new development from Peppers’ Grocery and Market at 628 EE Butler Parkway.

“The reason I am concerned is because if Pepper’s doesn’t intend to improve its property, and it remains an eyesore from my perspective…then I think there should be some separation from a beautiful, planned project,” Brooks stated.

Brooks added, “We need to have some assurance that we won’t have traffic cutting through the trees, cutting through the hedges – foot traffic…I’m really concerned about that.”

“If we’re going to make this kind of an investment we need to make sure that neighbors of the Housing Authority have some intent to improve their property.  If not, then separate it,” Brooks said emphatically.

“I’m pretty passionate about that, I guess you can tell,” Brooks ended.

City Manager Bryan Lackey said he would find out what the plans were for both the business and the project designers.

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