Waupaca Online seeks expansion grant
County asks city for broadband service
By Angie Landsverk
The city of Waupaca’s wireless internet service is applying for a grant to expand broadband in Waupaca County.
When the Waupaca Common Council met on June 20, it approved Josh Werner’s request to apply for a Wisconsin Public Service Commission Broadband Expansion Grant.
Werner is the city’s IT and community media director.
About two months ago, Waupaca County staff members asked Waupaca Online staff whether the utility is able and willing to expand its footprint and serve more areas in the county, he explained.
The county identified broadband access as a need in the county, particularly in rural areas.
“They reached out to a number of internet providers in the county,” Werner said.
None had an interest in expanding their footprints, he said.
After the county approached Waupaca Online, Werner and Ralph Schmal began driving throughout the county to look at the geography and identify which particular areas might work.
Schmal is of All-Net Consulting in New London, which partners with Waupaca Online to provide technical management and network engineering services.
The city of Waupaca started Waupaca Online in 2001 after private providers would not expand service into the city’s Business and Technology Park.
Dial-up service was the only service located in the area at the time.
In addition to serving the park, Waupaca Online focused on serving rural areas outside of the city.
Its current coverage area includes the city and towns of Dayton, Farmington, Lind and Waupaca, with 250 customers.
About two-thirds of those 250 customers are located in areas where no other adequate internet service is available, according to Werner.
He believes Waupaca Online is in a good position to take on a project like the county’s.
At the end of 2016, the utility had about $62,000 available in cash, and he expects between $15,000 and $18,000 in profit this year.
Any profit Waupaca Online receives goes back into its operation.
The proposed project would focus on areas in the county with no local internet or a poor quality of internet currently being offered.
It would serve the towns of Bear Creek, Caledonia, Dupont, Fremont, Larrabee, Lebanon, Little Wolf, Lind and Union.
The first phase of the project would include identifying Point of Prescence (POP) locations related to the towers in Fremont and Marion this summer and fall.
Phase II, in the spring and summer of 2018, would involve the construction of a 100-foot tower at the Waupaca County Processing and Transfer Facility near Manawa and construction of an 80-foot tower at Bear Creek’s town hall.
The final phase, in spring 2019, would be to put internet equipment on the town of Harrison tower.
Werner estimates the project cost at about $70,000 and said 45 percent of the cost would be covered by the grant, 45 percent by reserves and 10 percent by user fees.
“Even if we don’t get the grant, we’re still willing to work with the county to do some kind of footprint expansion,” Werner said. “That is what we’re here for – to go into areas others are not willing to.”
He also said adding more customers would allow Waupaca Online to purchase more bandwidth.
Mayor Brian Smith said the council’s action just allows city staff to apply for the grant.
“If we get the grant, there will be more discussion about if we want to accept the grant and if we want to move forward,” he said.
The back-in angle parking pilot project on Union Street is coming to an end.
The common council voted to end it and return it to front-in angle parking.
The pilot project on one side of East Union Street, between Main and Jefferson streets, began last summer.
Justin Berrens, the city’s director of public works, said the city decided to do the pilot project in case the Wisconsin Department of Transporation (DOT) did not grant the design exceptions the city sought for Main Street.
The city believed back-in angle parking would then be a good compromise.
However, the DOT did approve the city’s request to maintain front-in angle parking on Main Street, after the street is reconstructed in a few years.
“I think at this point, the trial has come to an end. It’s time to put it back to the way it was,” Berrens said.
In other action related to the Main Street project, the council approved the city’s Downtown Redevelopment and Streetscape Plan.
Brennan Kane, the city’s director of community and economic development, described it as a guiding document that will change as the city moves forward with the planning process.
The common council also approved a street closure and licenses for a Summer Block Party on Friday, July 28, at Rotary Riverview Park.
The city, Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce and Waupaca, King & In Between retailer’s group are working together for the third year to bring more events downtown.
The Summer Block Party will incorporate two events that took place last year – the summer picnic and Mini Spudder Open.
The free summer picnic will take place from noon to 3 p.m.
There will be games and activities throughout the day, including the Mini Spuudder Open, and a music festival with live bands from 3-11 p.m.
The Waupaca Area Public Library will offer a fun zone for children, and there will also be food trucks throughout the afternoon and evening.
In addition, the Chamber will host a Suds Shuffle from 3-7 p.m. at numerous businesses, as part of the event.
Those who want to participate in the Suds Shuffle will purchase a beer stein from the Chamber and then taste various craft beers.
Their steins will be rinsed with water at each business before they walk to the next business, so there are no open intoxicants on the city’s sidewalks.
There will also be a beverage tent in the park.
Cooper Street will be closed from 6 a.m. to midnight Friday, July 28.
In addition, there will be no parking in the park, beginning at 10 p.m. Thursday, July 27 and ending at midnight Friday, July 28.
The no parking restriction from 2-6 a.m., as well as the two-hour parking limit on city streets, will be relaxed in that area during the event.