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Havana to improve wireless signal

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By Ray Willis

The Havana Town Council approved a motion that would authorize the town to enter into an alliance with the Florida Rural Broadband Alliance (FRBA).

Jim Brook, executive director of the Northwest Florida Development Business Council and member of the FRBA, addressed the council and presented the plan and took questions from council members.

The FRBA hopes the council will approve an alliance between the FRBA and the town to attach equipment and an antenna to the town’s water tank.  It is critical in order to improve the microwave technology and to provide a better wireless broadband signal from point to point from Havana to the extreme northeast end of a loop. Broadband capabilities for the area would be enhanced with the equipment installed atop the water tank.

Brook went on to say that a successful installation and operation could provide jobs and attract businesses to the area.
A motion from the council would be needed for support and to power the alliance. If approved the town’s attorney would then examine documentation. Nine counties throughout the area are being served already by FRBA.

Councilman Miller asked if this was a nonprofit venture. Brook replied it was not a corporation put together, but it would be an alliance put together for profit, not a profit-making agency.

Miller then asked what department of the federal government is involved. Brook explained that a grant had been administered by the NOAA and was part of the 2010 stimulus package. The agency had $24 million — no more money, no more time, and that the grant would be over in July.

Miller asked if the project failed would be the FRBA’s responsibility to remove equipment from the water tank. Brook replied in the affirmative; the FRBA would bear cost of project installation, maintenance and removal, if necessary.
Councilman Thro inquired whether installation would interfere with other organizations also using the tank. Brook replied that they would not.

Thro then asked if areas that are not now being served would be served with broadband capabilities. Brook replied that 196 community anchor institutions within 15 counties were now being provided service. Those not being served now would be served and that this would constitute phase 1 of the alliance. He also reiterated that the venture would not be a for-profit service but a motivational one.

Mayor Pro Tem Vernell Ross said that the government would give credit for three years and that after five years, the town and the FRBA would renegotiate for the amount of lease payment to the town. Brook replied that at present most leases were $2,100 a month on average.

The board passed a motion to put the plan into action pending the town’s attorney’s approval.

Mrs. Amy McBride, Havana’s representative to the Capital Area Community Action Agency, requested financial assistance from the town for a Pig Festival to be held Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Tallahassee Fair Grounds.

McBride said that there was no money in the budget when she had approached Town Manager McKinnon for financial assistance and she was present to ask the council for help in raising some money and other assistance.

This organization is responsible for funding low-income programs in Havana and because of bad economic times much support was needed. Usually the agency has two fund raising programs a year, but this year only the pig festival would be held, she said. People would be needed to man booths. A car show is scheduled and a beer booth would also be open to the public.

McKinnon told her he would see if some help could be obtained. Mr. Ross stated that he would be glad to serve.
McKinnon stated that a motion was needed to approve a renewal in policy in a mutual assistance program between the Havana Police Department and the Tallahassee Police  Department. The program had been in existence for years. Basically the agreement meant that the HPD would assist the TPD if needed, and vice versa. Motion approved.

In the Town Manager Report, McKinnon reported the storm water grant project had been progressing well and the project was being finished up.  Risers had been installed at needed locations to lower drainage and improvement should be shown. Project is ahead of schedule. The East Gadsden Lady Jaguars softball team would be starting their season with home games being played at Gus Bert Field in town and that he was happy that one of the town’s ball fields would be used.

Councilman Vickers stated to McKinnon that some of the water lines were still not working properly. McKinnon replied the matter would be looked into.

Councilman Thro proposed that an economic council board be established in order to bring more business into Havana. Ideally, nine members would be needed, some council members, some town members, as well as a member or two from an area within five or six miles of the town. McKinnon stated that at the next meeting more details would be provided on the proposal.  Thro was fine with that.

A motion was made to pay bills and the meeting adjourned.