Piedmont City Council puts off vote on wireless Internet allocation
by Laura Gaddy
lbgaddy@annistonstar.com
Nov 20, 2013 | 5342 views |  0 comments | 80 80 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PIEDMONT — Piedmont public school officials will have to wait a little longer to find out whether the city will help pay to provide wireless Internet service for their students.

Earlier this month Piedmont schools Superintendent Matt Akin asked the council to reinstate a $6,250 monthly payment that makes the service possible, and the Piedmont City Council planned to vote on the matter Tuesday. Instead the council tabled the matter and voted to hold a work session to discuss whether the city can afford to make the payment.

“We need to help the school, but we need to know exactly how far we can go,” said Councilman Ben Keller, who proposed the delay and the work session.

The $6,250 in question comes out of a $6,500 payment to the city each month from the Wetumpka-based Internet provider, Information Transportation Services. The company pays to use city-owned cables to supply Internet service to students, who are given passwords to access the service.

The agreement between the city and the Internet company began when Piedmont’s school district secured an $867,000 Federal Communications Commission grant to begin offering wireless Internet service to students.

In 2012, under former Mayor Brian Young’s term in office, the council agreed to make the $6,250 payment for a three-year period. The city stopped making those payments to the school system last November under former Mayor Rick Freeman’s order, City Clerk Michelle Franklin said earlier this month.

Attempts to reach Freeman late Tuesday were not successful.

At least three of the city’s seven council members, Terry Kiser, Frank Cobb and Brenda Spears, have questioned whether Piedmont can help pay the school expense.

“I just don’t see how the city can pay it,” Kiser said.

Spears, a former educator, said she wants to support the schools but is also unsure whether the expense is affordable for the city. Spears said the city already makes two monthly payments totalling about $27,000 for debt it took on to help make school improvements, such as constructing the new football stadium. Spears said one of those payments costs $14,946 each month — a financial obligation the city has until 2040.

“We have 27 years to pay this, and we’re responsible for it,” Spears said. “I have to do what is best for the city.”

In other business:

• The city installed newly appointed Councilman Mark Harper during a swearing-in ceremony at the start of the meeting. Harper was selected to fill Bill Baker’s District 6 seat when he left the position to become mayor after former Mayor Rick Freeman resigned for health reasons.

• Voted to reappoint Calvin Houston, Randy Brown and Jay Wilson to the Piedmont Parks and Recreation Department Board.

• Agreed to support a paving project that will be completed by the Calhoun County Highway Department. Calhoun County Commissioner Rudy Abbott is providing road paving funds to repave eight streets for $200,000.

• Agreed to pay the Calhoun County Highway Department $53,057 to pave the parking lot in front of the city’s new pool. The county provided the lowest bid for the paving, said Carl Hinton, the Piedmont employee who is overseeing the project.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.

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