Farwell Council votes down Wi-Fi proposal

A proposal that the Village of Farwell install five small towers to bring Wi-Fi to the Village earned a resounding no vote from the majority of the Council members Monday.

The proposal by ISP would have provided wireless internet access throughout the village. The cost, $13,000 for the towers, was the one thing that stopped a positive vote.

Village President Steve Grim and Vice-President Vicky Gunden voted yes and spoke in favor of the project.

Gunden said, “It would only be an asset for the Village. This would be an opportunity to give people a reason to come to Farwell. Vacationers might stay longer if they could access the internet and work from here.” She said one of the questions asked of other communities by businesses and people interested in going there is, ‘Is there Wi-Fi?’.”

Grim said, “Looking forward is important for our community. Each year access to the internet will continue to be more and more important.

James Conlay, Delores Knepper, Elton Marshall and Gina Hamilton all voted against the proposal.

Hamilton said, “My concern is that we just adopted a budget where we cut out a lot of things. I voted against that, but now we are talking about spending $13,000 over our revenues again. We didn’t plan for this.”

Knepper asked if a decision could be postponed for “a couple of months.” She said, “I just don’t think we are ready for this.”

Grim responded, “If it isn’t going to be now, when is it? I think we have the resources to take care of the $13,000 [cost]. Council has to believe this is viable and would be positive for the community.

Conlay said, “People with ISP [service] are not very impressed with it. I can’t see us spending this when we cut out so much from the budget.” He continued, “Why don’t we start smaller and just have the service [available] in the Village Park and see how we like it? It would be free for that service.”

Grim said, “The $13,000 we are looking at is a drop in the bucket if it [brings] one more business into the community. There has to be a reason for people to come back. Groups are working to get the community going in a positive direction.”

He continued, “It is one more element in the Village of Farwell that adds to the community. It’s hard to look ahead. We have to take a chance. I would hate to see us wish we had done it.”

County Commissioner Lynn Grim said, “It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s what people want. It brings foot traffic into the Village of Farwell.”

Following the lengthy discussion, the Council voted down the proposal 4-2.

The Council also approved three motions made at the Committee of the whole meeting: approving an intergovernmental agreement for cooperation between the Village and City of Clare and with the Clare County Road Commission regarding the exchange of services; changing the current 3 percent flat penalty on taxes paid after September 15 to a late fee of 1 percent per month from September through February; and changing the Committee of the Whole meetings from the third Monday to the third Tuesday of June July and August.

Following a Public Hearing, the Council approved a $4 monthly fee for trash pickup in the Village. The service has been available since 1988 at no charge. The new fee would pay a portion of the Village costs for the service. Residents will see the first charge on their May 1 bill, Clerk/Treasurer Janet Conlay said.

Council members also heard a request from Karen Lewandowski of Isabella Bank for being “friendlier towards bikers.” She said she would reimburse $50 to every business that would put in a bike rack. She said Friends of Clare County Parks and Recreation has matching grant funds available for projects “serving the residents or guests of Clare County.”

The Council also discussed filling a position on the Department of Public Works. Aaron Moline, DPW Superintendent for the past nearly 30 years, will retire at the end of the month, and John Koch will replace Moline on an interim basis until the Council decides how to fill the lead position.

Finally the Council approved the payment of bills totaling $25,324.00.