Downtown Pelahatchie plans to offer Wi-Fi - 09:07 AM - December , 2008
In a quiet place like Pelahatchie, technology could be key to luring more businesses to its downtown, town leaders say.
The town plans to offer free wireless Internet in its downtown, serving as a marketing tool for drawing new businesses.
"It gives us one more thing to differentiate ourselves from everybody else," Mayor Knox Ross said. "A lot of work we are doing is in anticipation."
The town's downtown is located on U.S. 80, just east of Mississippi 43.
Free wireless Internet will be available for the town's core, a four-block footprint bordered by Church, Rhodes, First and Munsterman streets.
Included in the Wi-Fi's reach are three new city buildings: a library, a community center and a museum, as well as City Hall, the Pelahatchie Volunteer Fire Department, Muscadine Park and downtown businesses.
The town of about 1,500 residents plans to spend about $5,000 on the project. Jackson-based Webworks, which also did the Wi-Fi for nearby Jellystone Park, will set up the Wi-Fi system, Ross said. It's upkeep is expected to be no more than $100 a month, he said.
Work likely will begin this week on the project, and Ross said he expects it up and running in a month or two.
Ross said the Internet service is not meant to replace existing Internet services.
"We want something for the casual user," said Ross, owner of an iPhone. "It's when you want to check your e-mail."
Ross got the idea from Rankin First Economic Development Authority's executive director, Tom Troxler, who said he read about out-of-state municipalities that offered Wi-Fi.
"I thought Knox being the creative-type mayor, he might want to try it," Troxler said. "The computer, the Internet, the wireless technology is the newest, latest technology driving force of businesses."
Troxler and Ross said they believe Pelahatchie will be the only municipality in the metro area to offer Wi-Fi.
The mayor said he has been investigating Wi-Fi options for several years but was unhappy with price tags that neared $50,000 for installation.
Ross, an avid camper, noticed campgrounds about the same size as a town's center often offer Wi-Fi.
"I know they didn't pay $50,000 for Internet," Ross said.
Ross then called Pelahatchie's new campground, Jellystone Park, where he got information about Webworks.
Depending on the success of the project, Ross said he would like to expand the service to encompass the town's schools.
Wi-Fi is just one of the town's plans for creating a more desirable downtown. Other projects include revamping sidewalks and streets and renovating a former hardware store into a community center.
"We're trying to house the town's services in a compact area," Ross said. "When the next development boom comes, we want to be a part of it."
Although downtown boasts a handful of businesses, including a pharmacy, cafe, grocery store, dentist's office and a CPA firm, downtown still has vacancies.
Ross said he hopes the revitalized downtown can attract more business, such as a fine-dining restaurant or a coffee shop.
Town leaders met several weeks ago with an architect to devise plans for the community center and on streetscaping of Brooks Avenue and Second Street (U.S. 80).
"They've done a lot of good work (in downtown)," said Jack Rhodes, owner of Rhodes & Robby Drug Store. "Once we get the community center going on the corner, that'll be a feather in the cap."
A new library is expected to open its doors in coming months. The town also plans to start engineering work on a new two-mile bike path.
Although the town is now undergoing several improvements, the mayor says they weren't all conceived during his tenure. Much of the work began under previous mayors and aldermen.
"It's not an overnight success story," Ross said. "It was a lot of people working on its foundation for a long time."
Ross said he hopes the town's investment in downtown will draw private entities to follow suit. Downtown's newest addition is the two-story Pelahatchie Dental Clinic.
On Brooks Avenue, Rhodes said he plans to give his pharmacy a facelift with new signage and possibly painted bricks.
(Taken from Clarion Ledger article by Justin Fritscher on 12/30/08)
Bold dates denote events.