By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
Looking to the future for a number of constituencies and worthy considerations, the Hope City Board approved a limited pilot program Tuesday night for its city-owned utility company, Hope Water & Light, to provide high-speed broadband Internet service to local residents.
The pilot program will test HWL’s proposed service to city residents along 16th Street in Hope and rural residents off Spring Hill Road.
As presented by HWL’s Russell Cornelius, the proposed new service, which will be available to existing HWL account holders and customers, seeks to provide an alternative Internet service provider option for local residents, and has been discussed at previous Hope Water & Light Commission meetings this year as covered by SWARK Today. See link at:
Board member Kiffenea Talley asked Cornelius about the impact on resident’s bills, saying “There are already concerns from residents about rates being too high, and some people having trouble paying their bills. What will this do?”
Cornelius said that Internet billing would be separated from the regular HWL billings for electricity and water. More importantly, Cornelius emphasized that any Internet billing would be for subscribers to the Internet service, not the entire HWL customer base.
“This will not impact the customer’s water and electric bill in any way,” Cornelius said.
Seeking approval from the Hope Board comes after months of discussion within HWL, and following an HWL survey of its customer’s earlier this year, in which HWL received 889 responses.
As he did with the HWL Commission back in February, Cornelius reviewed some of the survey’s findings with the Hope City Board.
“The top three factors, not surprising, were Price, Speed and Reliability,” Cornelius said.
Cornelius also said that 800 responses indicated that “Streaming,” with services such as Netflix and Hulu were already occurring in homes, regardless of whether respondents had kept traditional cable television services or not.
Hope Community TV, which also provides traditional cable, was listed in the survey as the top Internet Service Provider in the area with 40-percent of the market share, followed by others like wireless services such as Premier Broadband and AirMax Communications.
AT&T’s DSL services, still based on traditional telephone architecture, also remained a top provider in Hope.
Cornelius also mentioned that 29-percent of the survey indicated persons worked from home or had a home office; 42-percent had students with Internet needs; while 41-percent were identified as “gamers,” who are those participating in online gaming, usually through consoles like Microsoft’s X-Box or Sony’s Playstation 4.
Cornelius explained elements of both the financial plan and infrastructure implementation. He said that HWL could offer broadband Internet competitively priced at $65 per month for speeds up to 100 Mbps. For the initial pilot program, Cornelius said the investment would cost HWL $81,000.
In other Hope City Board news from Tuesday night:
• The board heard from Dr. Larry Silvey, who had a driveway damaged by a fire truck during an incident at the Hope County Club. Silvey, a pastor, said “These last 14 months have been as stressful as any I’ve been through.” Although Silvey thanked Board member Don Still for his attention and friendship, Silvey also expressed frustration that apparently no one in the city would take responsibility for damaging the driveway. “We have adults acting like kids in Hope,” he said. Silvey, who is now trying to sell the house, said “I am going to pay for it. It is time that this is taken care of.” Hope Mayor Steve Montgomery said, “I understand your frustration.” and Silvey’s exchange ended there.
• The board approved a change order to the EDA project, which City Manager Catherine Cook interestingly introduced as “a change order to the change order.” The net affect of the change order was a $23,000 increase in the project for the purpose of “lime stabilization” and “geotech fabric placement,” both designed to stabilize the ground. Cook said the city did have a contingency fund of $80,000, and the board approved the $23,000 increase.
• During her city manager’s report, the general theme was the effect of weather and wet conditions on various city projects, including the downtown Pavilion, the Airport drainage project, and the water treatment plants. “It has been a hard winter,” Cook noted.
• In citizen’s comments, Hazel Simpson spoke and thanked the City’s Street Dept. for its efforts during the inclement weather. She also asked about the public availability of the Pavilion, and Cook said it would be treated as any other city-owned facility would be, and it could be reserved through the City’s Parks & Recreation Dept.
• Cook and Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson gave an brief update on the expansion of the HPD offices in cooperation with the Hempstead County Sheriff’s office. Wilson had appeared at the last Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting as previously reported by SWARK Today at link: https://swark.today/?p=6693
* Veteran Jay Kopecky sought clarification on the city’s plans for the Kopecky property, which he sold to the city in May 2018. Still said that meetings with parties from the Clinton National Birthplace, the Clinton Foundation, and others had developed an early version of a plan, and he said “We’ve started the ball rolling, but we have a long way to go.” Still said that along with the Hope City Board that the National Park Service would be involved in the final design. Still also said he has been working with adjacent Atwood’s management as well. Still said demolition of the structure has been stalled due to weather, but he hoped it could be accomplished in a couple of weeks.
See recent SWARK Today coverage of the Kopecky House at links:
By Rick Kennedy, managing editor