Marion hears request for Internet antenna placement

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
A competitor stepped forward Monday to ask the Marion City Commission that its high-speed wireless Internet antennas be allowed atop water towers -after the commission granted the same request to Tri-County Telephone last week.

Gene Winkler, appearing with Randy Kai, regional sales manager of DTN SpeedNet, offered the city five business Internet lines trade for four antennas on each of the city’s two water towers, plus payment for electrical service. DTN offers residential service for $39.95 monthly, and commercial service for $69.95 monthly.

Winkler reminded commissioners that he began as local agent for Prairie I-Net a year and a half ago, and continued with the company local service when DTN bought PIN.

He said that when PIN came to town, it was already contracted to place its antennas on the Cooperative Grain & Supply elevator, but that location gave incomplete coverage to the town, especially in certain areas on the Hill and in newer housing on the northeast.

Besides improving general service and technical support, Winkler said DTN had been planning to extend coverage when a telephone line to increase capacity was provided to its service area. When Winkler read of Tri-County’s effort, he said he alerted Kai that it was time to act anyway even though he didn’t want to “sound like sour grapes” trying to discourage competition.

Kai said DTN also is serving other area cities such as Moundridge, Canton, Galva, Inman and others, and the addition of the telephone line will allow it to increase its capacity by six-fold.

Winkler said DTN would keep the co-op antennas, but that adding water tower antennas would give the company 100 percent coverage of Marion and the Marion County Lake.

He added that coverage in the countryside was to be increased with new grain elevator locations such as at Durham. Scheduled placement of antennas on the elevator at Herington was not done to keep from interfering with Tri-County frequencies, he said.

Persons at the meeting testified to the effectiveness of wireless internet service, such as Orville Pfeiffer saying it was at least “three times faster than anything else.”

But there are also problems, said Commissioner Larry McClain, who liked the service but not the blockage of service from trees blowing in the wind.

Mayor Eloise Mueller asked that any decision on the Internet antennas be delayed for a week to give commissioners time to study the situation.

The commission considered other business matters too, granting a tax abatement on two new pieces of equipment at Marion Tool & Die with the company’s commitment to add three more employees, and renaming streets at the retail industrial park.

Susan Cooper, development director, announced that a groundbreaking ceremony for Mid-America Marble Company, makers of marble counter tops, sinks, tubs, showers, etc., will be held at 10 a.m., Wednesday, in the Marion Business Park.

A public hearing on the Tool & Die abatement is set for 4 p.m. Monday, April 14.

Cooper said the economic development committee had felt that more appropriate street names should be assigned to the industrial parks because the current names sound “more like residential areas,” which reflects the history of the retail park’s original plan as a site for manufactured housing.

There would be North Industrial Road in the first retail park, and South Industrial Road south of U.S. Highway 56 in the newer Batt Industrial Park. Names like Tandy Terrace and Laurie Lane would become names like Commercial Drive, Limestone and Sandstone.

Cooper reviewed development of up to a 20-page City of Marion Internet Web site for the commissioners’ approval.

Police Chief Michel Soyez said his department is seeking bullet-proof vests valued at $4,000 each under a U.S. Department of Justice grant program.

He said businesses helped with donations for vests in former years, and that if he had one now he “would wear it every day.”

Soyez said the vests are made to repel blunt force, not something like an ice pick, and are more effective against hand guns than the firearms like rifles that police here are more often forced to face.

Harvey Sanders, public works director, said that with the return of warmer weather the city crew is removing problem trees, and returning to a higher level of construction on the new 12-5 electric lines.

The commissioners approved an addendum with Seacat True Value on its lease agreement with the City because of a new modified loan on the hardware building the City signed with Central National Bank last week.

The commissioners approved a utility fund transfer from the refuse fund to the equipment reserve for $20,000 to build reserve, and paying $15,457.13 in warrants.

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